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The RAS hosts popular 45-minute lunchtime lectures for non-specialists, at which members of the public can listen to leading scientists talk about their work. Please note that attendance is on a first-come, first-served basis. There is no charge, and doors open 30 minutes before the start of each lecture.

Venue: Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1J 0BQ, UK

London Underground: Green Park or Piccadilly Circus

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Cosmic Fire on Earth: The amazing energy of star death
Date: 13 May 2014
Time: 13:00


A Public Lecture by Dr Francisco Diego (University College London).



We live in a Universe that develops increasing complexity from a distant origin, from pure and simple energy. In this lecture we go back in time to explore those initial conditions, when the primordial energy was confined in a handful of fundamental particles, the building blocks of the Universe to be brought together at different stages by the four known basic forces.

We will travel deep inside stars to witness some of those forces at work, assembling together the nuclei of light atoms along millions of years; a process highly intensified during the brief and cataclysmic death of massive stars. At that point, the nuclei of the heaviest atoms are put together, atoms that are essential in our modern society. Their ticking energy telling us the age of our planet. Their burning energy destroying malignant tissues in our bodies, powering our civilisation and sadly, achieving the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

We have in our hands the enormous power of stars that lived and died billions of years ago. As we enter our second century of atomic radioactivity we must find wise ways of using that cosmic power to ensure our survival and expansion.

Francisco Diego is a Senior Research Fellow at the Department of Physics and Astronomy University College London, vice president of the UK Association for Astronomy Education and a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society. He is a keen populariser of natural sciences and has extensive experience as a planetarium producer/presenter, lecturer, author and broadcaster. He has appeared on TV series like Stephen Hawking's Universe, BBC's The Planets and more recently, the world-wide version of BBC's Wonders of the Universe, The Seven Ages of Starlight and The Secret Life of the Sun.

Dr Diego is a veteran of 20 solar eclipse expeditions, and the founder and director of Your Universe, the UCL festival of Astronomy. He has also produced and delivered The Mind of the Universe, a collection of public and school lectures and teacher workshops on astrophysics, cosmology and life in the Universe.