Twice a year The Royal Institution dedicates a day of Lectures for The U3A. This year the lectures were about Poisons, Psychopaths and Materials. These subjects were presented with such knowledge, enthusiasm and indeed humour that it makes these visits the highlights of the year.
This year it was on the 30th September and nine of us dutifully arrived at one thirty PM to grab our seats for the two o’clock start. Our first speaker was Kathryn Harkup to talk about poisons – does your tea taste funny? She went on to a potted history of classic poisons, poisoners and their victims, she also added a few hints for the defence barrister. It was a most interesting subject very well presented.
The following speaker was Essi Viding on ‘Why do some people become psychopaths?’ Her talk looked at behavioural problems in children in terms of genetics, brain function and development and asked why some develop into psychopaths. This was a very provoking insight into something of general interest. We then retired for coffee and bikkies and a quick look at some of the treasures of the Royal Institute.
After the break we returned to our seats for the final talk by Zoe Laughlin who would tell us all about the latest advances in materials science and show some examples. It was a fascinating trip around these extraordinary objects. One was a runny, gooey stuff which she rolled into a ball and threw it on the floor and instead of just sticking there it promptly bounced back like a squash ball it turned into a solid instantly under any impact, it was evidently used in body armour. Another material was a porous substance that is used as a scaffold on which to grow new bone in the body using stem cells which would consume the material as the bone grew and integrated with the existing bone. This was a wonderfully interesting subject and was presented with such humour and enthusiasm that we were all entranced. All in all it was a most satisfying experience and I shall certainly be going to the next series – I thoroughly recommend this day out.