Session 1was entitled “Electricity is Wonderful”. Alex Paterson, well known for his talk on energy last year, treated us to a comprehensive account of the place of electricity in our modern society, its production, storage, transfer and uses, and our dependence on it. He has agreed to put his lecture on the U3A website and it is highly recommended viewing for all members. It is unlikely to appear straight away but will be worth waiting for.
Our second lecture was by Susan Slater entitled “The Industrial Revolution”. It traced the progress of industrialisation in parallel with the availability of energy; horses, humans, coal, steam.
The next speaker was Jo Livingston who has the good fortune to have an ancestor with enormous talent in developing engines with a special interest in cliff climbing railways, several still operating.
Tuesday afternoon was an absorbing visit to the Wedgewood pottery where we were shown via a guided tour the entire process from china clay to finished teapot and saw the workers exhibit brilliant artistic skills. The Museum was a breath-taking display of past skill and driving entrepreneurial motivation on the part of many generations of Wedgwoods.
Lecture 4 was entitled “Handedness” and brought attention to the practical effects of producing commonly used tools, household equipment etc. often requiring different designs.
Session 5 needed not only an encyclopaedic knowledge of Mendeleev’s Periodic Table but also benefited from the acting skills of the presenter Gordon Woods, who with the help of a most convincing beard and cloak took us back into history.
Session 6 was a convincing exposition by Francis Goode of the physics of colour. With the help of a projector and many colour slides he graphically demonstrated how the human eye perceives colour.
Professor Simon Blackmore of the Harper Adams University explained how many historic agricultural processes would be changed in the future, i.e. minimising compaction of the land by use of miniature helicopters, eradication of weeds using single drops of chemical, robot tractors, and no ploughing which exposes our precious worms to depletion by marauding seagulls.
The history of medicines was touched on by Michael Hollingsworth who expounded on Aspirin, Morphine and Penicillin. He explained that the failure to produce new antibiotics which are needed to replace the older increasingly ineffective antibiotics was primarily cost and returns. Huge development costs, delay in coming to market and uncertain usage, as they would be ‘saved’ for special cases.
The final session was opened by Frank Wood who admitted that he didn’t know how the pyramids were built but offered us some possibilities: canals, ramps, levers and sheer muscle power.
We were treated to a tour de force by Harry Rowe entitled “Aspects of Cosmology” which set into perspective a lot of half understood speculations. Brilliant!
We were left looking forward to next year.