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

30 Sep 14: Galactic Planetary Science - Professor Giovanna Tinetti, University College London

Joint meeting with SEKAS

Professor Giovanna Tinetti, University College London

Planetary science beyond the boundaries of our Solar System is today in its infancy. Until a couple of decades ago, the detailed investigation of the planetary properties was restricted to objects orbiting inside the Kuiper Belt. Today, we cannot ignore the number of known planets has increased by two orders of magnitude nor that these planets resemble anything but the objects present in our own Solar System. Whether this fact is the result of a selection bias induced by the techniques used to discover new planets – mainly radial velocity and transit -- or simply the proof that the Solar System is a rarity in the Milky Way, we do not know yet.

What is clear, though, is that the Solar System has failed to be the paradigm not only in our Galaxy but even ‘just’ in the solar neighbourhood. This finding, although unsettling, forces us to reconsider our knowledge of the planets under a different light and perhaps question a few of the theoretical pillars on which we base our current ‘understanding’.

The next decade will be critical to advance in which we should perhaps call galactic planetary science. In this lecture, I review highlights and pitfalls of our current knowledge of this topic and elaborate on how this knowledge might arguably evolve in the next decade. More critically, I identify what should be mandatory scientific and technical steps to be taken in this fascinating journey of remote exploration of planets in our Galaxy.

14 Oct 14: From Fundamental Interactions To Industrial Scalable Nanotechnology - Dr Chris Howard, University College London

Dr Chris Howard, University College London

Nanomaterials, such as grapheme, have the potential to revolutionise industry in areas such as healthcare, IT and energy production and storage. However for this to happen, techniques need to be developed to both scalably manipulate the nanomaterials into applications, and also to tune their properties for specific applications. In this talk I will show how this can be achieved via chemical doping, and discuss the resulting implications for industrial-scale nanotechnology.

4 Nov 14: The Crystal World - Professor Mike Glazer, University of Oxford

Centenary Crystallography Lecture

Professor Mike Glazer, University of Oxford

Crystals have been objects of mystery and fascination for the last two millennia: but people in general are unaware that much of the solid material around us is in fact made up from crystals, including all rocky planets such as the one we live on. The importance of crystals lies not just in their beauty and their intrinsic value as gem-stones, but in their practical applications that are at the centre of today’s technological society. The study of crystals, known as ‘crystallography’, has a major impact amongst all the sciences, including biology, chemistry, physics, materials science, mathematics and engineering.

In the first part of this talk we shall follow some of the historical developments that have enabled scientists to discover and describe the role of symmetry in understanding the nature of crystalline solids. Despite centuries of interest and study, until the early part of the 20th century, ideas about atomic arrangements that make up the crystal structure were primarily theoretical, with almost no real experimental evidence to back them up.

This talk celebrates the 100th anniversary of the discovery of the technique of x-ray diffraction, which has enabled modern scientists to determine the crystal structures from experiment. The first demonstration of this was made by von Laue and co-workers in Germany in 1912. Then in the following year, father and son, W.H. and W.L. Bragg in Britain showed how x-ray diffraction could be used to locate the positions of all the atoms in the crystal. Thus was born the modern era of x-ray crystallography, which has led to numerous Nobel prizes, great scientific advances, such as in the development of computers, modern genetics, new materials and much else. We shall see how the science has advanced over the last 100 years from the very simple crystal structures, such as common salt, to today’s complicated molecular crystals, such as proteins and viruses, that can contain tens of thousands of different atoms. With today’s computing power and sophisticated instrumentation, even these complex crystal structures can be solved almost routinely, an enormous feat that the Braggs and their contemporaries could not possibly have imagined.

18 Nov 14: Vulcan’s Forge And Hades’ Kingdom: Chemistry And Biology Under Extreme Conditions - Professor Paul McMillan, University College London

Professor Paul McMillan, University College London

Most chemistry we know about is based on experiments carried out at near ambient conditions. But most condensed matter in the universe exists under conditions of extremely high pressures. Will our conventional chemical rules still hold under these conditions? Or should we expect some major upheavals in our fundamental concepts of structure, bonding and stoichiometry? We will explore the chemistry inside Vulcan’s forge. In Hades’ kingdom life exists and evolves deep below the Earth’s surface. Recent observations indicate that this holds to be the case, on Earth and perhaps elsewhere in the universe. We will explore the limits of biological survival under deep subsurface conditions.

2014 Christmas Science Lectures - Tickets £1 per person. Booking essential Tel: Gulbenkian Theatre Booking Office 01227 769075

Wed 26 Nov 14 - 11am and repeated at 2.30pm: Confounding Colour ---- What is it and how do we measure it? Dr Andrew Hanson, The National Physical Laboratory, Teddington


Colour informs, influences consumer choices, warns us and comforts us. As with every aspect of life, it needs to be measured to ensure good communication and confidence in manufacturing processes for a diverse range of goods from pills to paints. But how do we ascribe numbers to a human perception which is incredibly versatile and variable ? The challenge is enormous and human colour perception science is still a lively topic today. Be warned! This demonstration talk will contain surprises – there is a lot more to colour than meets the eye.

Andrew Hanson , Senior research scientist, National Physical Laboratory, UK. For 25 years Andrew has been professionally measuring colour, from evaluating the appearance of ornamental plants, to building the world’s first national standards telespectroradiometer to calibrate the colour of visual display units and a machine to measure the shininess of cats. He is currently Outreach Manager and Occasional Senior Scientist at the National Physical Laboratory, the UK’s National Measurement Institute and is past Chairman of the Colour Group of Great Britain.

Wed 27 Nov 14 - 11am and repeated at 2.30pm: Looking Through Glass, Professor R J Newport, University of Kent

Professor R J Newport

Glass is at the heart of one of our oldest technologies, yet continues to offer challenges to science and opportunities to society. Covering aspects of history and art alongside the science that tells us what glass is at an atomic scale, the talk will be richly illustrated with artefacts and demonstrations.

2015 Spring Lectures

3 Feb 15: 50th Anniversary Lecture given by Dr Frances Saunders, CB, FREng, CEng, CPhys, FInstP, MIoD, President of the Institute of Physics

Joint Kent Physics Centre / Engineering and Digital Arts Lecture

Times Higher Education Interview with Dr Francis Saunders

Full details to follow.


3 Mar 15: Magnetic Materials, Spin Ices and ‘Magnetricity’ - Professor Steve Bramwell, University College London



Faculty of Sciences, Marlowe Building, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7NR

Enquiries: T +44 (0)1227 827833, E stms-enquiry@kent.ac.uk

Last Updated: 03/07/2014