Friday Evening Lecture Series
Commencing Friday 6 October 2017
Lecture Theatre B, School of Physics and Astronomy, North Haugh
The lectures begin at 8pm and last until approximately 9pm, followed immediately by the opportunity for questions and discussion for a further 15 minutes.
Both semesters: £70
Six lectures: £25
Three lectures: £15
Lectures – semester 1
From Eald Englisc to Modern: The History of the English Language
6 October 2016
Taught by: John Gallagher
Tracing the history of the English language is very much like tracing the pedigree of a mongrel dog. This is not to suggest that English is degenerate but that it is the result of an amalgamation of many different languages. It is fitting that the world’s lingua franca is one which represents extensive contact with other languages. The Anglo-Saxons who came to this island from the Continent, c. AD 450, spoke a Germanic language known as Old English. After its arrival on this island, this early variety of English underwent significant developments, finally emerging as the language we recognise and use today. This talk will survey the key moments in the history of the English language from the mediaeval to modern periods.
Contact with other languages during the mediaeval period and the result of this contact on the shape of English will be central to this talk. We will read and try to translate (with the help of a crib) mediaeval texts in Old and Middle English. We will also listen to and even attempt to speak mediaeval forms of English – be prepared! After exploring the mediaeval development of English, this talk will address those two giants of the English language – Shakespeare and the King James Bible. The development of Modern English, its colonial history and the varieties this history birthed and the emergence of English as a global language will then be discussed.
Social Intelligence in Great Apes
13 October 2017
Taught by: Professor Klaus Zuberbuehler
How did early humans communicate before language? To address this, there has been a concerted effort in recent years to systematically study the communication of great apes in their natural environments. Results have revealed a plethora of precursor abilities in both chimpanzees and bonobos, presumably already present in the common ancestor that paved the road to language. Many of these precursors seem to be more directly linked to social cognition than communication per se. We will review some recent progress of the field and explore the more general hypothesis that the emergence of group-level cooperation has been responsible for the emergence of spoken language in early humans.
Is the Past Key to the Present? Response of Life to Extreme Events in Earth's History
20 October 2017
Taught by: Dr Aubrey Zerkle
One fundamental question in natural science is how life evolved on Earth. What we know beyond reasonable doubt is that simple single-celled organisms evolved in the oceans more than three billion years ago. What is becoming increasingly apparent is that the chemistry of the Earth surface (both the atmosphere and the oceans) has undergone dramatic changes since that first cell division occurred.
What we now seek to understand is how the evolution of life has responded to, and in some cases driven these changes in Earth surface environments. Understanding how life responded to global change in the past will help us to more clearly predict how life will respond to future change, for example that imposed by our rapidly warming climate. In addition, understanding how life evolved on this planet will inform our search for habitable planets in other solar systems.
Stem Cells and Their Importance in Neurological Disorders like Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
27 October 2017
Taught by: Amit Chouhan
Neurological disorders which includes diseases like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s and Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis are often characterized by loss of specific neural cells in the brain and spinal cord. Unfortunately, no cure exists for these devastating diseases, and available treatment options are currently limited. Neural cells do not have the capability to multiply in-vivo after maturation and hence once lost due to disease or aging cannot be replenished automatically.
With the advent of stem cell technology, stem cells can now be obtained from embryonic and adult human tissue, and converted to neural cells with the help of biological factors. This conversion of stem cells to neural cells can be performed by scientists in sterile laboratory conditions providing a constant and efficient source of neural cells which can be used for treating neurological diseases.
This lecture will focus on the usage of stem cell derived neural cells for disease modelling and drug screening. It will also cover recent medical advancements where stem cell derived neural cells are now being used for engraftment in patients as a treatment option.
The Vital Statistics of the Loch Ness Monster
3 November 2017
Taught by: Charles G M Paxton
For at least 85 years a monster has been reported from Loch Ness. This talk will explore the Loch Ness monster as a statistical problem. What does an analysis of the reported sightings tell us about the beastie of the loch? Can the plural of ‘anecdote’ be ‘data’?
Plague and the Black Death
10 November 2017
Taught by: Dr Beth Thomas
The first wave of the epidemic disease known as the Black Death struck Western Europe between 1347 and 1351, and in that time it carried away at least 40% of the population, making no allowances for age, sex or position in society. For the majority of the time since the Middle Ages, it has been assumed that the Black Death was bubonic plague, however modern historians and scientists have begun to question that assumption.
This talk will examine the arguments on both sides of the debate, using both historical evidence and the medical evidence provided by recent studies. We will ask what the Black Death really was and consider why the debate matters.
17 November 2017
Taught by: Donald MacEwan and guests
In the spirit of Interfaith Week, the University of St Andrews will be hosting a discussion panel of informed representatives from multiple faiths. Each member of the panel will receive three questions regarding pertinent issues affecting the modern world. They will each present prepared answers from their faith’s perspective before engaging in a group discussion focussed on identifying ways forward which draw on the traditions represented by the faiths, allowing possibilities of increased understanding, respect and communal action.
24 November 2017
Taught by: Dr Adam Reed
This talk will focus on Adam’s long term anthropological research with an ethical campaigning charity focused on animal welfare issues in Scotland. His interest lies in the relationship between personal moral striving and the organisational apparatus for achieving ethical ends: in this case, an end to animal cruelty. What does it mean to possess an ethical feeling for animals? How does passion and emotion connect to forms of moral reasoning? How does one deal with moral disappointment in an everyday and organisational sense?
Cracking the Inca Code: Deciphering the Textile Writing of the Andes
1 December 2017
Taught by: Dr Sabine Hyland
University of St Andrews anthropologist, Sabine Hyland, will discuss her discovery of two khipus – Inca textile writing – guarded by villagers in a remote community high in the Andes, Peru, which may unlock the secrets of the Incas. The only Andean phonetic khipus ever identified, they provide the first evidence that the Incas possessed phonetic writing. This discovery opens up the possibility of deciphering the mysterious Inca string writing, which would revolutionise our view of Inca civilization, the largest indigenous empire of the Americas. Dr Hyland will also discuss working with National Geographic to make a documentary about her findings.
Archibald McIndoe and The Town That Did Not Stare
8 December 2017
Taught by: Anthony Butler
During World War 2, many fighter pilots suffered from severe facial burns, and their appearance was so grotesque that a return to civilian life was impossible. The New Zealand plastic surgeon Archibald McIndoe set up a special unit at the Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead where an attempt was made to rebuild faces and return these brave men to normal life. This required a long stay in hospital with as many as 40 operations, and McIndoe organised his unit to give his patients a life outside the ward during treatment. The people of East Grinstead were encouraged to welcome the badly disfigured patients into their homes for simple hospitality, and it became known as ‘the town that did not stare’.
Lectures – Semester 2
Deep-Water Marine Archaeology
19 January 2018
Taught by: Neil Cunningham Dobson
ROVs (Remotely Operated Vehicles) have been used in the offshore oil and gas industry since the 1980’s. In 1990 and 1991, Seahawk Deep Ocean Technology of Tampa, Florida, conducted the world’s first archaeological excavation of a deep-water shipwreck off the Tortugas Islands in the Florida Keys, USA, and exclusively using robotic technology. The new discipline of deep-water marine archaeology requires the same standards as those employed in terrestrial and shallow water sites. The significant difference: specialised equipment. This lecture will show through examples of projects, how ROV technology has been able to conduct marine archaeology at depth.
Fife born marine archaeologist Neil Cunningham Dobson has 15 years' experience investigating and excavating deep-water shipwrecks in the oceans of the world, has over 40 years’ experience in the marine and offshore industry, and comes from a long line of seafaring ancestors who can be traced back more than 250 years. The deep-water shipwreck investigations attract world-wide media attention so Neil’s work puts him in the spotlight; he has been the subject of many print articles and has appeared on TV, starring in global shows on channels ranging from Discovery, National Geographic, History Channel, PBS and appeared on the BBC and UK Channel 5.
How Extremists Use Social Media
26 January 2018
Taught by: Yannick Veilleux-Lepage
The growth of IS has been facilitated by a sophisticated digital campaign of propaganda. The group’s well-edited videos and glossy online publications – such as its magazine Dabiq – have made both its exploits and its aims well known to those with access to the internet, especially to those active on social media.
This lecture will examine the nature of IS’s online presence as a method for spreading its jihadi narrative, and will discuss how the cyberspace provides the group with a reservoir of willing supporters who are able to disseminate its message with a single click, legitimising its seemingly archaic goals through very modern means.
The Centre for Exoplanet Science
2 February 2018
Taught by: Dr Christiane Helling
More than 3300 planets are known to orbit stars far beyond the solar system, in planetary systems very different to our own. There may well be hundreds of billions of extrasolar planets in the Milky Way alone. These planets include planetary types not found among the eight planets that orbit our Sun, including mini-Neptunes, super-Earths, rogue or nomad planets, and hot gas-giant planets. Are we therefore alone in the Universe? To answer this pertinent question, we seek to understand the formation and evolution of our own solar system and the reasons for this rich planetary diversity.
The Centre for Exoplanet Science brings together researchers from different disciplines to find out how planets form in different galactic environments, how their atmospheres evolve, and the relationship between the evolutionary history of planets and the emergence of life. We are further interested in the moral, ethical and technical aspects of detecting existent or extinct extra-terrestrial life in distant exosystems, or within our own solar system, and the significance of such a discovery for our societies.
Dr Christiane Helling will provide an overview about the kind of research that the members of the University of St Andrews’ Centre for Exoplanet Science are doing and why they think that understanding how unusual Earth is may help humanity to appreciate how special it is.
Let's Go Get the Ice!
9 February 2018
Taught by: Rosalind Garton
This typical gangster saying tells of one the extraordinary properties of diamond – it feels cold to the touch because it is an outstanding conductor of heat. Diamonds are most commonly thought of as primarily a gemstone, but apart from their beauty and durability they have many other applications, such as in abrasives and in electronic equipment. Their geological setting can also tell us about the nature of parts of the Earth’s upper mantle – the layer beneath the Earth’s deepest crust and over 100km underground. This talk will look at how and where diamonds form (we might even find them in Fife!) and their many different uses.
16 February 2018
Taught by: Daniel Farrell
There are more than 100 graveyards in Fife and they range in historical importance from the early 16th-century gravestones at St Fillan’s, Aberdour, to the Victorian hillside necropolis at St Andrews. This lecture will investigate the changing fortunes of graveyards in Fife and the role that they play in discovering local history. As records of social change, graveyards are fascinating survivals of local communities and their patrons. In addition, graveyards are rich with symbolism and religious expression, not only in the stone carving but also in local traditions surrounding burial customs. This lecture will take a long-view approach to the graveyards in Fife from the earliest known burial grounds through to the modern crematoria. Individual graveyard histories will be discussed along with the most significant monuments and memorials in Fife. The talk will be fully illustrated.
The Passional of Abbess Kunigunde of Bohemia
23 February 2018
Taught by: Kathryn M Rudy
Late mediaeval readers sometimes interacted with manuscripts in highly physical ways, by rubbing and touching their books. Physical evidence from the books themselves – with signs of repeated abrasion – indicate that such touching must have taken place ritualistically. Formative examples of such rituals were the priest kissing the sacramentary or missal during Mass, and people touching a gospel book in order to make an oath. In the later Middle Ages, these rituals were expanded and adapted to include other situations and book types but preserved two ideas: that the book was the locus of authority, and that figures represented within books could provide a direct conduit to the people they represented. This talk considers the Passional of Abbess Kunigunde of Bohemia (National Library of Prague, Praha, Ms.XIV.A.17), a manuscript dating from 1312–1314. Users have intentionally touched and thereby damaged several of the images in the book, but seemingly for different reasons. In this talk, I analyse these marks of wear and speculate on how they were formed and why.
Art, Anthropology and Empires
2 March 2018
Taught by: Jonathan Falla
At the beginning of the 20th century, European modern art was profoundly shaken by the arrival of ‘primitive art’ from the colonies. The sculptures of Dahomey, the Gold Coast, and the Pacific seemed to express feelings and instincts that western classical and academic art had long lost sight of. Absorbing the culture of other lands was also a part of controlling and subduing them, and led to a difficult balancing act between appreciating art works for their own sake, studying them for what they could teach us, while at the same time not wishing to seem predatory. These difficulties have continued to the present day. We shall look in detail at the Paris World Fair of 1900, the reactions of modernists such as Picasso, Braque, Derain and Kirchner, and the trials and tribulations of anthropologists in many lands as the century progressed.
Ouch! Tic Douloureux, the painful history of Trigeminal Neuralgia
9 March 2018
Taught by: David Mowle
Trigeminal neuralgia, also known as Tic Douloureux, ruins lives by unleashing volleys of paroxysmal, electrifying, lancinating pain into the face in response to innocent stimuli such as a gentle touch or gust of cold wind on the cheek.
David Mowle will describe the condition, discuss the theories of its causation, the historic attempts to treat it and the ongoing efforts of modern pharmacology and neurosurgery to control one of the most mysterious and exquisitely painful conditions known to mankind.
From Sheep to Chic: History-in-Use in Scottish Tartan and Tweed Production
16 March 2018
Taught by: Shona Chillas
Scottish textile production has recently experienced a resurgence, and this talk shares research on the industry, examining how history is used as a resource in contemporary practice. The production and consumption of Scottish tartan and tweed juxtapose the culturally infused heritage of the cloths with the seasonal rhythms of fashion and enterprise, thereby creating an unusual paradox. Different versions of the past, and references to national history, company history and embodied history, are used to establish authenticity. Archives, for example, inspire contemporary textile designers, and handwoven Harris Tweed is protected by legislation. However, the demands of contemporary fashion put some limits on how history is portrayed and displayed. Current demands remake the traditional uses of the textile or of garments made from the cloths. Producers of tartan and tweed are engaged in identifying the images and qualities of the fabrics that will suit contemporary use and are keen to dislodge images, for example, of tweed as heavy or scratchy, or of tartan patterns limited by clan associations. In identifying the past (or useful parts of the past) history is made plastic, introducing associations that imply continuity with the past, yet which are adapted for contemporary contexts.
On the Edge: Coastlines of Britain
23 March 2018
Taught by: Rob Duck
The building of railways in the 19th century has had a profound but largely ignored physical impact on Britain’s coasts. This presentation explores the coming of railways to the fringes of the country and the transformation of our coasts through the destruction or damage to the environment.
In many places today railways are the first defence against the sea, and similarly the embankments of long-closed lines act as sea walls. It is ironic at a time when climate change is very much favouring rail as a means of transport that many lines are increasingly exposed to extreme weather and the very actions associated with their construction, such as aggregate extraction from adjacent beaches, have exacerbated attack by the sea and coastal erosion. With the benefit of hindsight, many coastal railways have been built in locations that would not have been chosen today. As our climate changes and storms potentially increase, what might be the implications for some of Britain’s lines on the edge?