The Science of Sci-Fi: Jurassic Night

The ink of Asimov’s pages has inspired many young minds to pursue engineering. The roar of revived dinosaurs in Jurassic Park has led to a generation of bright geneticists. The unknown mysteries of galaxies far far away have called to many children to become physicists. And even those of us that have not pursued a career in science, cannot help but dream of the thrilling but distant realities pictured in Science Fiction. But how distant are they really? How close are we getting to sentient robots, dinosaur theme parks, or time travel?
Last year, we started the ‘The Science of Sci-Fi’: a series of talks exploring explore the connection between scientific research and sci-fi. After covering the awe-inspiring topics of Artificial intelligence (“Age of Robotics”) and the wonders of the universe (“Through Time and Space”), we turn to the world of genetics and dinosaurs in our third edition: “Jurassic Nights”.
A sequel to Jurassic World isn’t expected to 2018 (Chris Prat had to play the Starlord first, we guess), but we figured it couldn’t hurt to dig into the past of dinosaurs nevertheless. Or the future, perhaps. With new genetic tools to our disposal, “de-extinction” is not necessarily a topic limited to sci-fi. Time to explore the possibilities then, with the help of Dr Steve Bursatte and Dr Megan Davey.
You might know Dr Steve Bursatte from TV. Remember that show “Walking with Dinosaurs” on BBC? He was the “resident palaeontologist.” He also was a presenter for National Geographic’s T. rex Autopsy. If you thought Ross from “Friends” had a cool job (which he had, regardless if you thought Ross was a pretty boring character or your opinions on the whole Ross & Rachel thing), you’re sure to find Steven Bursatte way more awesome. He works at the School of GeoSciences (University of Edinburgh) and specialises in of fossil vertebrates (this includes dinosaurs, in case you were wondering). He studies how the earth has changed over time, and how evolution works over long time scales. And if you have ever wondered about the real science behind Jurassic Park, this is your chance to find out, for he will surely tell you.
We will also have a chat with Dr Megan Davey, who is a developmental biologist at the Roslin Institute. She studies bird anatomy, more specifically limb development, to understand vertebrate development and evolution (and remember how birds have probably evolved from dinosaurs?). Maybe she can answer the age-old question: why did T-rexes (or T-rex or T-reges, damn plural) have teeny tiny arms? And if not, she will surely explain more about how paws, claws and hands can teach us about evolution.
“Jurassic Night” will take on May 18th at 5pm in the Great Hall of the Royal College of Physicians in Edinburgh. For more information see our evenbrite and Facebook event page.
teeny tiny arms!

Special act preview (image from T-Rex Trying)

Celebrating the Scottish Genius

This year, Scotland is celebrating one of its under discussed geniuses: Prof. D’Arcy Thompson and his 100 years old book ‘On Growth and Form’. It is remarkable how Prof. Thompson was connecting biology with physics and mathematics well in advance of the breakthrough of biophysics. To know more, be sure to catch some of this year’s events dedicated to the subject, and read the following re-post from MCAA Scotland Chapter member Valerie Bentivegna explaining how On Growth and Form is inspiring her own research:

Exactly a century ago, D’Arcy Thompson published his book On Growth and Form. I’ve spoken about Mr. D’Arcy before, but as it is the 100-year anniversary of his masterwork, I feel it fitting to revisit the topic. Since mentioning him last, I have finished reading his book, and have also started to write up my […]

via Mathematical beauty (100 years part I) — Great Scot!

About Space Pirates and biophotonics

It seems like MCAA are having a lot of fun mixing biology and physics… and talking about it! Here is MCAA Scotland Chapter Chair explaining what biophotonics has to do with Space Pirates and Lightsabers:

From a Brightclub gig, the simplest explanation I can provide about optical trapping.. and how it would define its researcher as space pirates

via The Author… unveiled — The 19th century scientist

The physics of cancer – part 2

I know.. you wanted to know more about the physics of cancer!

MCA Alumna Valerie Bentivegna, a.k.a. Inevitable Avenger, is here to help:

Two weeks ago, I told you that physics and cancer are, perhaps counterintuitively, intermingled and that this relationship has biological and clinical implications. I outlined how mechanical forces act on cells and tissue, and perhaps are responsible for one of the many ways of cancer progression. In this post, I’d like to tell you about […]

via Physics of Cancer (2) — Great Scot!

Physics of Cancer, you said?! (feat. Valerie Bentivegna)

Science would make no sense without sharing it! There would not be any benefit in discovering something new and keep it secret.. and there would be no fun either!

We at the MCAA Scotland Chapter are well aware of this! Take for example Valerie Bentivegna, recently elected board member of the chapter for public relations and engagement: she sings about the Physics of Cancer at the Scottish Finals of FameLab, an international competition for science communication!

Now, that you are hooked on the topic, don’t forget to click on the link below to read more on the topic for some insight about Valerie’s research!

If you are confused by the title, that’s okay. Usually, when we read something about cancer, it is about something biology-related, for example about specific mutations or the environmental conditions that increase cancer risk. A lot of research is happening with regards to the biology and biochemistry of cancer: which tumour suppressor genes are mutated in […]

via Physics of Cancer (1) — Great Scot!