Ten members of the Science group went to RAL Harwell for the October lecture entitled ‘A is for Arsenic; The Poisons of Agatha Christie’.
Dr Kathryn Harkup gave us an extremely entertaining talk about the main poisons used in Agatha Christie’s murder novels.
They are mainly Arsenic, Strychnine, Phosphorus and Cyanide.
Agatha Christie trained as a nurse during WW1, but then changed to drug dispensing, which gave her the knowledge she needed to use poisons as her choice of murder weapon in her novels, which she started writing in her spare time.
At times the talk was gruesome, but there were many laughs as well, and was very enjoyable.
This month’s lecture at RAL Harwell was postponed until July, so 9 members met in the Town Hall to talk about anything science related. Martin gave an interesting presentation on the making of glass from the collection of sand from the beaches at Southport, to the chemical elements which come from various countries, and are added to the mix to make different types and colours of glass. Hopefully we can learn more about glassmaking at another meeting.
This was followed by a talk on how the animal world is surprisingly helping itself outwit human intervention, from australian snakes developing smaller jaws so they cannot eat the large poisonous cane toads, introduced as pest control to the cane fields, to swallows which nest under bridges on motorways, developing shorter wings so they are more manoeverable in flight. The roadkill statistics for swallows are down by nearly 50%. In Africa, statistics show that elephants are being born with smaller tusks, or even tuskless, to foil the ivory poachers. In one game reserve alone, 60 years ago only 1% were born with no tusks, today it is 33%. Clever elephants.
Then we had a talk from Brian about his visit to Chatham dockyards, and the rope factory in particular. He told us about the manufacture of rope used on sailing ships, and how flax was plaited and twisted by hand several times to make the required thickness. Surprisingly there are only a few ‘ropes’ onboard ships as many have different names, such as sheets, painters and halyards.
Following a lively discussion, we all agreed that this had been a really good meeting, and one that will be repeated in future.
Science lectures for Spring/Summer at RAL Harwell:
Discovering the Universe from beneath the Surface. Given by Emma Meehan of the Particle Physics Department.
From an active mine in the North of England, 11km underground, scientists are investigating the mysteries of the Universe.
Exploring the Deep – ocean vs space. Given by Russell Arnott, Outreach Presenter for Whalefest.
Why have over 500 people been into space, but only three have been to the bottom of the ocean?
To catch a Monopole. Given by Dr Tom Whyntie, School of Physics and Astronomy, Queen Mary University of London.
What is next after the Higgs boson? The search for a completely new type of particle, the magnetic monopole.
Black Holes – science fact, fiction or fantasy. Given by Professor Chris Done of the Dept of Physics at Durham University.
Separating the facts from the fiction, how did black holes go from an extension of Einstein’s theory of gravity to observational science.