What does it mean to be human in the age of AI and robotics?

Professor Kathleen Richardson, who will give a talk in UCD in November, is Director of the Campaign Against Sex Robots (Source: UCD)

The advance of AI, robotics, and other new technologies are leading to an unprecedented transformation of the human world.

The plotting the future series of public lectures at UCD is seeking to explore how the place of humans in the world is changing, and the implications of that.

Kathleen Richardson, Professor of Ethics and Culture of Robotics and AI, De Montfort University Leicester will deliver the fifth lecture in the series on the 9th November with a talk entitled ‘Turning Persons into Property and Property into Persons’.

Kathleen Richardson is the Director of the Campaign Against Sex Robots and Senior Research Fellow in Ethics of Robotics and part of the Europe-wide DREAM project (Development of Robot-Enhance Therapy for Children with AutisM).

Kathleen is author of An Anthropology of Robots and AI: Annihilation Anxiety and Machines. She is now working on her second manuscript The Robot Intermediary? An Anthropology of Attachment and Robots for Children with Autism.

This is a public lecture and all are welcome, but registration is required in advance. To register visit http://www.ucd.ie/humanities/events/plottingthefuture/

National Science Quiz takes place on Thursday


The 2015 National Science Quiz final took place in TCD, and here are some of those that were in attendance. (Credit: ISTA)

On Thursday, leaving certificate students from all over Ireland will take a break from their studies to take part in a National Science Quiz, starting at 7:30pm in 13 venues nationwide.

The top scoring teams will be invited to Trinity College for the Final. This year that will be Saturday 26th November the National Finals will take place in Trinity in the Edmund Burke theatre with
Dr. Aoibhinn Ni Shuilleabhain as guest quizmaster. The National Final is sponsored by BioPharmaChemical Ireland.
This quiz was started by the Dublin Branch of Irish Science Teachers Association in 1990, and is  co-ordinated by Mary Mullaghy.
 Application Forms and all the required info available at www.ista.ie

Science Spinnning short-listed for Blog Awards Ireland 2015

Shortlisted-Buttons-300x250Delighted to hear that Science Spinning has been short-listed for for Blog Awards Ireland 2015 under the Education and Science category.

The competition was stiff to get onto the long list, so I’m very happy to reach the short list.

The winner will be selected by public votes, so, if you like Science Spinning, you could say so, by voting for it when the voting opens.

The shortlist is opened to a public vote on 7th September.

I’ll be looking for your number one!



The talented Lady Ranelagh: Robert Boyle’s secret collaborator

Lady Ranelagh

Robert Boyle’s sister, Katherine, or Lady Ranelagh, pictured here, was one of his most important scientific collaborators (Scoure: Wikimedia Commons)

Robert Boyle is known to most of us from Boyle’s law in school and the idea that he was, somehow, a very important scientist indeed.

What is less well-known is that his sister Katherine, or Lady Ranelagh, pictured here on the right, was one of his most important scientific collaborators. She was, like her brother, a hugely talented person.

Katherine, who married at the age of 15, was a talented scientist, political activist, philosopher and medical practitioner. This, in a time when women were not meant to have opinions or to work in science.

Boyle held his sister in the highest esteem throughout his life, and after her husband died he went to live with her in London.

She left her husband, so the two Boyles – who were born in Lismore Castle – become even closer than they were already, and lived together for the rest of their lives, dying within a week of each other.

Robert Hooke, another huge scientific talent, and a brilliant experimentalist, built a laboratory for himself and Boyle in Katherine’s garden, and all three, it seems, worked there in close collaboration.

To find out more about this woman’s life why not take a trip to Lismore this Friday, the 26th, to hear Dr Michelle DiMeo of the Chemical Heritage Foundation tell her story at the Robert Boyle Summer School 2015.

The talk is dedicated to the memory of recently deceased, Mary Mulvihill, a science journalist, and another brilliant Irish woman. It will take place at 3pm at St Carthage’s Cathedral.

The science of optimism tops the bill at science teachers conference

Professor Elaine Fox

Professor Elaine Fox, scientist, best selling author of  ‘Rainy Brain Sunny Brain: From Pessimist to Optimist: Can We Really Change?’ and an expert in the neuroscience of optimism will be speaking at the ISTA conference in Galway on 11th April

From training the brain to be more positive, to improving science communication skills, to learning about life-saving chemistry, better combating obesity and all manner of science workshops there is an exciting programme on offer for teachers who attend the upcoming Irish Science Teachers Association (ISTA) Conference, which takes place from 11 to 13 April at NUI Galway.

Undoubtedly, one of the biggest names on view will be Professor Elaine Fox, an Irish neuroscientist and best-selling author of ‘Rainy Brain Sunny Brain: From Pessimist to Optimist, Can We Really Change?  She will be speaking at the conference on Friday 11th April at 8pm.

Among the fans of the book is Michael J Fox, the US actor (no relation to Professor Fox!) who has famously suffered from Parkinson’s disease. Prof Fox, who grew up in Dublin, but is now Director of the Oxford Centre for Emotions and Affective Neuroscience (OCEAN) will be talking about why some people are more resilient and what the rest of us can do to train our brains to become more able to withstand life’s stresses.

Science lovers all agree that chemistry is interesting and important, but how many of us know that it can also save lives. To find out more, delegates should go along after breakfast on Saturday to hear Professor David Smith‘s talk at 9:30am.

Those more interested in physics, however, might rather hear Keith Gibbs, retired physics teacher, give his talk, at the same time, on fun and useful experiments in physics.  Keith is also the author of ‘The Resourceful Physics Teacher, 600 Ideas for Creative Teaching

Keith was a physics teacher for 30 years and now gives lecture demonstrations to teachers and students. He produces material for physics education, much of which he provides for free here.

For pure entertainment and fun, however,  Fergus McAuliffe‘s talk at 10:45am on Saturday should not be missed. Fergus, a UCC PhD candidate is a brilliant, insightful speaker on the subject of science communication and very witty too. It’s little surprise that he is now a presenter on the RTE 1 television series, the Science Squad.

There is a strong health theme running through the conference this year, and Professor Donal O’Shea, consultant doctor, who runs Ireland’s only dedicated anti-obesity clinic at Loughlinstown will be in attendance. Dr O’Shea has seen close up the frightening increase in obesity related illness in Ireland. He reports from the frontline of what is, for some, a  life or death battle of the bulge.

Keeping with health, Dr Mark Foley is giving a talk on Saturday at 11:45 on the ways physics can be used to treat cancer, and to potentially identify it at an earlier stage in people.

What used to be called ‘new media’ are often these days an important part of the classroom experience. Teachers interested in looking at what can be done with these media might be interested to hear Professor Martyn Poliakoff‘s talk on Saturday at 2pm.

Professor Poliakoff, who is a chemist at the University of Nottingham, will be talking about his video-making collaboration work with journalist Brady Haran. The two came together to produce science videos for youtube which can be seen here

Meanwhile, the weird and wonderful world of quantum mechanics and whether organic life is governed by its rules is the subject of a talk by Professor Jim Al-Khalili at 5pm on Saturday.

Elsewhere there are an abundance of workshops on all the science subject areas, and one for primary science too, with many interesting exhibitors providing information on new educational products and methods.

There will also be a welcome speech by Galway’s own Marie-Geoghegan Quinn, the European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science

World expert in tsunamis to speak in Dublin

Lisbon Earthquake

The Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755 devastated the city and the resulting tsunami hit southwest Ireland

A world expert on earthquakes and tsunamis will be in Dublin in February to discuss the latest research into how these events can be more reliably anticipated and planned for.

Dr Yoshiyuki Kaneda, of the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC) will give a talk at the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies on Monday, 3rd February.

The mega-quake of 11th March 2011 that hit Japan, killed 16,000 people and resulted in €24 billion of damage.

In response, Japanese scientists have just installed a network of some 30 high-tech observatories on the deep ocean floor. Packed with sensors, these stations send real-time information back to shore, monitoring the Earth’s plates as they slip, shift and buckle.

Ireland tsunami threat 

It would be wrong for Irish people to assume that mega-quakes and tsunamis are things that happen in far-flung lands, and have no direct impact on us. The historical and geological record demonstrates that Ireland has been hit by two tsunamis in 1755 and 1761, when buildings were damaged along the south coast.

The tsunami in 1755 was caused by the Great Lisbon Earthquake. A similar quake today could trigger another tsunami endangering the Irish south coast in particular. Ireland is also at the risk of a tsunami from submarine landslides, as happened off Canada in 1929, or a volcanic eruption on the Canary Islands or Caribbean.

Dr Kaneda leads Japan’s Earthquake and Tsunami Research Project for Disaster Prevention at JAMSTEC.

His talk is a joint initiative of the Embassy of Japan in Ireland and the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (DIAS), a centre for seismic research which runs the Irish National Seismic Network (INSN), and is open to the public and all interested parties.

As seating capacity is limited, registration is essential at the Embassy of Japan on 01-202 8305 or cultural@ir.mofa.go.jp between 20 and 30 January.

Dr Kaneda is also giving an expert workshop for young researchers on the morning of 3 February.


The Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755 resulted in a tsunami that hit the Irish southwest coast:

JAMSTEC video of the remotely operated vehicle “Hyper dolphin” burying and installing the DONET (Dense Ocean floor Network system for Earthquakes and Tsunamis) observation devices deep under the ocean: