The BA Festival Of Science

 By Hina Keval (Bsc.Ergonomics -DPS)


I had taken a wonderful opportunity on my sandwich placement year by applying for the Lilian Elizabeth Bowmaker Bursary. I later received a letter on behalf of the Prizes Committee, congratulating me for my impressive essay on science and I was happy to find out that I would be attending the Festival of Science event at the University of Salford. I was awarded a generous bursary which included a 1 year membership with the BA, travel, food and accommodation expenses for the 7 days during my stay. The seven day festival took place just before my final year. The festival was run by the BA (and has been every year since 1831!)

The BA is the British Advancement of Science, a charity whose mission is to connect science with people, making science itself and the ways in which it is applied accessible to all.

25 other students also attended too from various universities whom obtained bursaries like me. There were students from Reading, Durham, Nottingham University and many others too. Upon arrival, the University of Salford campus was sign posted clearly and had the Science Festival theme displayed all around the campus. The atmosphere sparked off on the Sunday evening where a finger buffet & wine was provided as a warm welcome and introduction by the BA Executive and BA staff for students.

Full lists of talks and fringe events were covered in the BA Festival Book given to all attendees; students had the choice to choose the talks they most liked for the week. The festival’s theme was ‘Sustainable Science,‘ and talks varied from plant power, women and science, sound, Antarctica and pollution, farming, brain surgery, micro engineering in medicine, global economy, bio weapons, minerals, science and Islam, telepathy, extra terrestrials in our solar system, intelligent environments, nuclear astrophysics, cancer research & football science.

An Evening with Lord Winston!

Lord Robert Winston visited the campus and talked to attendees and shared his knowledge and views on Science. A lecture full of festival delegates watched The Times science columnist interview the professor. Winston answered questions from the audience about his work and his views in medical science. The father of fertility science claimed that his first conscious experience was a ‘Turn on.’ This was a memory from school, where his boring lecturer at school who had an unusual name demonstrated a monumental explosive experiment, and it was this that had opened his eyes towards science. Lord Winston says he was not that interested in science, he set up a drama company and directed drama shows after his career. He mentions that his first scientific paper was published at the age of 30.

Lord Robert Winston and Hina Keval

Lord Robert Winston & Hina Keval

Within the hour chat with Lord Winston he showed his 3 part series in short previews. This will be shown on Channel 4 in 3 weeks - (The Human Mind). A few things Winston had to say:

“We can change the maintenance of gene study, by changing a person’s genetic environment, and therefore by genetic engineering.” “The healthier your mind is the healthier body is, therefore maintain the cerebral cortex.” “We will be dying of cancer in 50 years, because of the ageing population; also we are likely to be suffering from degenerative diseases.”

What I Learnt And Want To Share…

Within the hour chat with Lord Winston he showed his 3 part series in short previews. This will be shown on Channel 4 in 3 weeks - (The Human Mind). A few things Winston had to say:

“We can change the maintenance of gene study, by changing a person’s genetic environment, and therefore by genetic engineering.” “The healthier your mind is the healthier body is, therefore maintain the cerebral cortex.” “We will be dying of cancer in 50 years, because of the ageing population; also we are likely to be suffering from degenerative diseases.”

All week there were various topics which were all very exciting and certainly difficult to choose from as they overlapped throughout the day. I attended those I had particular interest in, and had noted the facts and issues down to share:

VACCINES
Did you know that the first vaccine was developed 200 years ago? And infection was the most common form of death, 10-20% people were killed from small pox. Edward Jenner, a country doctor first depicted small pox and developed vaccines from simple experiments on small pox vaccines for cow pox. Although scientists are developing more cheap, stable, easy to administer, effective and safe vaccines; infectious diseases still kill 15 million people a year worldwide.

HIV/AIDS infection…
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency virus) is cause of Aids and was discovered 20 years ago. There are over 42 million sufferers of HIV worldwide and infects the CD4 T cells (chiefs of the immune system) where they kill and stop them from working properly. These cells replace themselves and eventually the virus overwhelms the immune system. Treatment had started for Aids in 1981, HIV in 1983 and the A2T drug was developed in 1987 to treat the HIV virus. From 1996 the triple therapy was the standard therapy. However these 3 classes of drugs is not considered a cure - simply for the reasons that the drugs have to be taken forever, and not all sufferers have equal access to it and the treatment can be ineffective if missed on occasions. A major issue concerning the HIV virus is that it is hardly recognizable. The HIV virus is coated with sugar molecules and triggers to produce the wrong antibodies; this integrates into the human DNA and cannot be recognized very well.

ACOUSTIC ANAESTHESIA
An interesting talk by Southampton University was presented where researchers found and used techniques to assess consciousness using auditory evoked potentials (AEP). In short, they observed a human ear activity to indicate the level of consciousness a patient is at. In a series of experiments they presented 5 clicks per second into a subject’s ear and broke down the signals to the AEP level. They had found that they were able to identify the exact levels of consciousness using the subject‘s response to the clicks as an indication. This was demonstrated using an EEG (Electroencephalogram - providing neuro feedback) and by observing the person’s responses to the ear.

EAR IMPLANTS
There were a few talks on the ear, sound and music science. I learnt a few facts about the cochlea. The cochlear is the Latin word for snail, for its shape and it carries the fluids which vibrate tiny hairs when the ear receives sound waves. Some people have their cochlea damaged and need an implant - this cost £30,000 and they improve sound accounting for direction and sound. Other talks mentioned that infrasound (low frequency sound) is used in very old chanting music, and experiments show that it produces tingling sensations and a different feel to subjects with music that had infrasound incorporated in it.

SEXUAL CHEMISTRY
Speakers highlighted that a lot of natural products found in plants and minerals are used to develop medicine, as well as using biochemistry advances. Chemical structures are replicated synthetically to those of natural chemicals and this is how modern drugs are developed, i.e. B-carotene (identical chemical structure form carrots which has chemical to improve visual receptors). Natural products do not last forever and modern biochemistry allows us to develop medicines for the sick and poorly. The talk was concluded with this thought: ‘It is vital we preserve our natural products, we should question the food additives for marketing purposes. For an example Tartrazine is used to darken orange juice as marketers found that darker the orange juice the more likely the consumers are to buy it (dark = rich = tastier = purer). Overall sensitivity and care is important in this topic.’

The foundations and uses of Nitric Oxide…
Chemistry advances from 1987 to 1993 have found the following roles of NO (Nitric Oxide):

Pheromones . . .
Pheromones lead to a change in the behaviour of the recipient. Insects such as moths, bees and ants even humans release this chemical in order to communicate to our own species. Gypsy moths emit 13 micrograms per minute for 30 minutes of their entire life to mate (this is the epoxy-2-methyloctadecane, a long hydrocarbon structure with an Oxygen-Hydrogen molecule within it. The pheromone acts as a signal, e.g... The honey bees are picking up signals constantly from their queen bees for controlling commands such as work, mating and laying eggs. 3methylbutylethanoate is an alarm bees release when they sting, warning other bees of your presence. The two human hormones found in males are…

1. 3-ethyl hexenoic acid 2. 2-methylpropanoic acid.
These are chemicals generally found in sweat.

ACTIONS OF ILLEGAL DRUGS ON THE BRAIN
When Dopamine is released it acts as a psycho-stimulant, arousing attention and ability and allows one to carry out repeated tasks over long periods of time. The B52 British military pilots in Afghanistan and the US used Dopamine drugs to keep them awake. All drugs that are addictive activate a final common pathway on the brain. They stimulate dopamine release in a specific region of the forebrain - nucleus of the succumbus.

NEUROGICAL ADVANCES
A neuroscientist from Manchester hospital talked about aneurism - a blow out of the mid brain vein. He used techniques such as clipping and sealing to the vein to repair aneurism. Image technology has changed - i.e. We now have the spinning x-ray machine, so that we can visualise the body at all angles before committing surgery. The first clipping was done by Walter Dandy - 1934. The neurologist showed 2 video real time clips of aneurism clipping and a ½ surgery on the lobe brain removal. This was a great insight into neuroscience and I appreciated the neurologist’s surgical expertise to patients with life threatening diseases.

IMPLANTS
The common transplants are the cornea, kidney, heart, lungs and liver. Other organs becoming more important are the pancreas, islet cells and neuronal cells. Nearly 5000 people receive transplants in the UK every year, but a high proportion of sufferers are on waiting lists. When one has a transplant, chronic rejection may occur usually 1 year after the transplant has taken place. The solution to this problem is PIGS! We have similar organ size and similar physiology to a pig believe it or not, also we breed a lot of pigs therefore there are plenty for the demand of transplants needed. However there are ethical concerns such as: ‘Do animals have the same status as humans?’ ‘Cloning/Breeding’ and ‘Do humans have the rights to use animals for their own purposes?’

My Overall Experience…

I have learnt more than I have noted and presented in this report, much of it I have kept in my mind and I have learnt a lot of facts from a variety of scientific disciplines at the festival. Although I study a small area of science, I was able to discover other areas I knew little about and found these areas very interesting. I would recommend all scientists to attend the BA festival and join the group (link:www.the-ba.net/).

The BA festival runs next year at the University of Exeter September 2004, and I would definitely recommend attendance.


Secretary to Prizes Committee
September  2003
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