Space, lies and the libel case

the x-change


Olivia Isaacs is today’s guest blogger. Kick starting the penultimate evening of the x-change was particle physicist, Frank Close. Shamelessly promoting his new book ‘Antimatter’ in the form of a fetching t-shirt, he briefly guided us through the ins and outs of the matter. Talk fell to the inaccuracy of Dan Brown’s novel, ‘Angels & Demons’. Few people in the audience admitted to having read the book and fewer still the film that came out of it.  His slot ended with the question “So how did you make publishing history writing a book about nothing?”

 Bringing us back down to earth (quite literally) with plant medicine was Dulcie Mulholland. Her recent work included studying plant species in Africa and Madagascar, as well as a plant used by a Zulu tribe, to induce labour contractions. Concluding, she reported that there are still many rainforest species yet to be looked at. Dulcie and her Botanist sidekick still have plenty to keep them busy.

 From good, honest plants to dishonest people, saw criminal lawyers Emily Finch and Stefan Fafinski take to the stage to discuss the results of our online survey ‘Honesty Lab’ looking at public perceptions of honesty. The answer to the question on everyone’s mind, “How do you know if the people taking the survey are telling the truth?” was, they don’t but they hope that people will be honest…hmm…

 Moving on from the dishonest public to the journalists who just love to use (mostly) made up equations, Simon Singh told us why this really bugs him. He believes when non-science journalists and their PR agencies approach a mathematician or a scientist asking them to make up equations it’s giving the wrong impression about science. He warns that some equations are supported by serious scientific evidence, so the public needs to use logic. Ultimately, Simon advises any budding science journalists to watch out for our English libel laws.

 The final speaker of the night took us back into the atmosphere and space. Scientist John Zarnecki talked about Titan, Saturn’s only satellite that has its own atmosphere, with liquid methane for water and ice for rocks. His latest plan (the Titan Explorer) is to work with NASA to sling a probe up to Titan in the hope it lands in one of its seas, to allow more investigation of the satellite.

 Finally, it was judgement day for the ‘perspectives’ students and the winner, with a poster in the form of a large Heinz Beans label, describing the stereotype of Dementia, was Gemma Webster.

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