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
A Public Lecture by Professor Donald Kurtz (University of Central Lancashire).
Days, Weeks, Months, Years and more: Hear about Roman Emperors, Zulu Wars, Rider Haggard, Thomas Hardy, the English time riots, and how the days of the week got their names in this amusing and informative tour of the calendar.
A Public Lecture by Professor Yvonne Elsworth (University of Birmingham)
Our knowledge of how stars change and evolve underpins our understanding of both the far reaches of the Universe and nearby stars including our Sun. In recent years these studies have all been revolutionised by observations of the interiors of stars. The methods are inherently simple even if they require precise techniques to make them effective. The physics that underpins the method is purely classical. It has been discovered that, for certain kinds of stars, the turbulent conditions that prevail in their outer convective regions cause sound waves to propagate and resonate within their interiors. This leads to small, periodic changes in the surface properties that can be observed. This field is known as asteroseismology. For the Sun, we are able to build seismic maps of the interior and hence make visible the conditions in different regions including the energy-generating core. Several major deductions which had far-reaching implications will be discussed in the lecture.
For stars more distant than the Sun, the information obtained is more limited. However, the recent data from the Kepler satellite has enormously broadened the field because we are no longer restricted to one sample (the Sun at its current age) from the wide range of states that the Sun and stars of roughly similar mass will experience in their lives. The lecture will give examples of how asteroseismology has impacted the study of planets in the habitable zones of their stars and also how we are able to probe conditions in the centres of evolved stars.
Professor Yvonne Elsworth is the Poynting Professor of Physics at the University of Birmingham and a member of the RAS Council. She graduated with a PhD from the University of Manchester on the design of instrumentation to study conditions in the upper atmosphere of the Earth.
Professor Elsworth was appointed to an academic post at the University Birmingham when the field of helioseismology (aka the seismic study of the interior of the Sun) was in its infancy. From those beginnings, she has seen the world-wide development of this novel area. The current unusual state of the Sun and the beautiful dataset from the Kepler satellite make these very exciting times..
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.
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.