GROUP – Science & Technology

Group Leaders : Trevor Smith & Barry Marshall

The group meets on the 1st Friday of the month at 2.00pm.

We meet in The Centre at St Peter’s.

About our Group

The Science and Technology Group meets at The Centre on Sheepwalk Lane on the first Friday of every month, where we have presentations   on a range of topics covering all aspects of science and technology, covering medical interests,  biology,  food science, construction and manufacturing technology, both in terms of hardware and software, artificial intelligence, and sciences from A (astrophysics)  through to Z (zoology).

Challenges abound with members joining in  for a “Sevens’’ presentations where people discuss a topic for 7 minutes and a maximum of 7 slides.

Coffee and biscuits are provided to ensure debate amongst the members..

In addition to the meetings we all try to arrange some visits  to local establishment of interest.

Forthcoming topics, include, the science of weather forecasting, the science of cheese making, (complete with cheese tasting), plastic musical instruments, can we eat bugs?, how  cruise ships cope with waste products.

Meeting Notes

December 2023

Science and Technology Group
December Meeting

Eleven members ignored the cold weather and came to The Centre to hear about reverse tricycles. These are vehicles which have two wheels at the front and one at the rear. We started by listening to a designer who looked at  a variety of design configurations for him to develop a streamlined  reverse tricycle where he wanted to be able to tilt the vehicle at 35deg and still maintain stability.  The main issues were the linkages interfering with the body  and loss of wheel grip at the extremes.. He concluded on a design  which may had had to have an element of compromise but still achieved the goal.

Then we looked at a number of vehicles in development and early production from around the world using similar techniques  to allow the vehicles to  tilt and not flip over which was often the case of  steering wheel leading vehicles such as the Bond and Reliant  three wheelers of yesteryear.

We saw electric assisted pedal tricycles,  fully powered scooters, some off which were enclosed and some with provision for passengers, and motorbikes and we saw how manoeuvrable they were and in some cases how fast they could accelerate. Some were designed for commuting and others for off road application. Some were just fun vehicles. Some were designed for low cost and others for sophistication. It looked fun ,  but these designers  are not looking at using these techniques on what I expect will be my next vehicle, a mobility scooter, but you all know they do not go around at 30mph!

Then we were treated to a designer talking about how his team have evolved a new version of a petrol engine powered  Morgan sports car. At last something designed and develop in the United Kingdom! We are an eccentric race after all.

Finally in the spirit of Christmas we had to take part in eating mince pies and stollen with our coffee and tea. Many thanks to all the people who helped.

As usual if anybody wants to see the presentation  I can download a copy  to them.

Best wishes for Christmas to one and all.


November 2023

At this weeks meeting we had two new members join us. Welcome from us all, to Jo Beardsley and Gill Froggatt.

This week’s topic was about the hidden world of trees and how they communicate with each other. We learnt about mycorrhizal fungi networks that grow from root to root passing messages to  nearby trees, The oldest trees in the forest, mother trees, have bigger roots and more mycorrhizal fungal networks covering a much larger area and therefore the mother tree can pass on  experience  to many more  trees and in particular to young saplings.  We learnt of the way Douglas fir and birch trees  actually help each other at different times of the year. This is leading to new forestry practice of not totally clearing all trees  in their logging business but to leave some to continue to nurture future trees. 

We were perhaps surprised to hear that Charles Darwin had written about cooperation between trees and plants, but people overlooked this as everybody concentrated on his Origin of Species.

We learnt of experiments  where three springs were covered by plastic bags and radioactive isotopes of carbon dioxide was introduced into one of the bags and within an hour radioactive material was traced in one of the other  samples. This happened at all eight sites in the forest. it was a clear sign of communication between trees.

Did you know that Giraffes  eat acacia leaves  when they are moving into the wind. This is because  the tres being eaten sense this and  rush toxic chemical into their leaves to warn other trees.  These chemicals  are toxic to herbivores,  so  with the leaves emitting the chemical, the Giraffes simply move upwind and keep eating.   Similarly some trees can detect deer saliva and again  chemicals are produced in the leaves which give  bad taste and therefore protect the tree.  
Trees have even been found to  give out electromagnetic  signals similar to those in humans  and some give out cracking sound pulses at 200Hz. 

These is a lot of things going on underground and we are only just beginning to learn about it.

For those who were not able to attend a copy of the presentation can be made available for you to see at home. Just drop me a line and I will send a link for you to receive the powerpoint presentation.

Update 2022

2022 has seen us cover a wide range of subjects ranging from the very heavy. —Dark Matter and Dark Energy very leading edge in terms of astrophysics through to simpler topics such as Bling Mining which was all about gold and diamond mining. On the fifth of November we had a talk about Volcanoes where we could see more fire power than the usual fireworks of the date. We have had some nostalgia, reviewing giant flying boats and Ekranoplanes (the ground effect ships of the Soviet Union).

  • Medical topics have include the discovery of digitalis.
  • Future house designs have feature complete with the electrical charging points for electric vehicles and we have learnt of members experience s of electric bikes and electric and hybrid cars. A presentation pnGPS kept everybody up to date.
  • Ever jumped out of a plane? Well we were given a potted history about parachutes and this was illustrated by a video of the author making his first and only parachute type of experience by running off a cliff in a tandem paraglider .
  • More recently we have have sessions on carbon capture and grapheme the wonder material.

More topics are to follow and we have full schedule already organised for the next 4 months, and we hope to restart site visits as the spring and summer of 2023 brings more suitable weather.

See the Diary of Events for more information about what is planned.

Group Contact Details

If you are not yet a member of Ravenshead u3a and would like to find out more about this or other groups, then contact the Group Leader using the link below.

Contact our Group Leaders : Trevor Smith & Barry Marshall

2023 Meeting Schedule

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