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Science in the Café – 2015

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2015 Café Calendar

DatePresenter(s)Title   Click for more details. (* : tentative)
3-Dec-2015Ms Prachi Saini GargThe Science of Perfumery
18-Nov-2015Prof Manuel Salmeron-SanchezUsing Biomaterials to Talk to Stem Cells
16-Nov-2015Prof Peter AbrahamsA History of Anatomy in Classical Art
15-Nov-2015Mrs Patricia Koh
Ms Tracy Tai
Dr Ngiam Xin Ying
Raising An Exceptional Bilingual Child
14-Nov-2015Prof Li Chia-WeiMy Memorable Fossil-Hunting Trips
7-Nov-2015Mr Benjamin Low
Mr Murli Ravi
Being ‘Here First’ Determines ‘What’s Fair’ for Immigrants: The Autochthony Orientations Model
28-Oct-2015Prof Patricia Vickers-RichWhen Life Got Big & Snowball Earth
14-Oct-2015Prof Richard J ParkerAviation and the Environment
16-Sep-2015Singapore Committee
for UN Women
Saving GAIA - Women Tackling Climate Change
19-Aug-2015A/P Scott AaronsonQuantum Computing & the Limits of the Efficiently Computable
12-Aug-2015Dr Carter EmmartBreakfast with Pluto!
5-Aug-2015Mr Charlie LimHow to Create Seasonal Cards using a Torchlight
1-Jul-2015Prof Alain AspectMaxwell's Wave or Einstein's LichtQuanten?
The Weirdness of Light
28-May-2015Prof Robert P CreaseThe Quantum Moment
2-Apr-2015Dr Timothy D DrysdaleCopying the Human Eye for Better Digital Camera Chips
25-Mar-2015Prof John MortonSilicon Chips with Quantum Insides?
11-Mar-2015The NNGβ Team of 6NicoNicoGakkai Beta
14-Feb-2015Prof Brian J FordThe Year of the Dinosaur
6-Feb-2015Dr Maxim DvornikovBall Lightning: A Puzzle for Contemporary Science

Café Details

Ball Lightning: A Puzzle for Contemporary Science
Date & Time:6 Feb 2015 @ 7 pm
Click here to check your complimentary entry eligibility.
Presenter:Dr Maxim Dvornikov, Institute of Terrestrial Magnetism, Ionosphere and Radiowave Propagation, Moscow, Russia
Sponsor:Science Centre Singapore
Synopsis:Ball lightning is a rare atmospheric electrical phenomenon. It is a glowing structure, having life-times of up to several minutes, and appearing during a thunderstorm. /// Some of the spectacular properties of ball lightning will be reviewed: the huge energy content, the ability to pass through tiny holes (as observed in some cases), the emission of strong electromagnetic radiation (which can damage domestic electronics), etc. The potential danger of ball lightning to humans and animals will also be discussed. /// The existence of ball lightning is still a riddle for modern science since this phenomenon has not been reproduced in a laboratory. There is no widely accepted theoretical model of it either. An overview of some of the theoretical approaches for the description of this phenomenon – since the pioneering research by F. Arago in 1837 to present time – will be given. The major experimental attempts to generate an artificial ball lightning will also be discussed.

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The Year of the Dinosaur
Date & Time:14 Feb 2015 @ 1:30 pm
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Presenter:Prof Brian J Ford
Sponsor:Science Centre Singapore
Synopsis:In this talk, Prof Ford presents new investigations showing that dinosaurs were very different from how we have imagined them. Instead of being huge terrestrial giants, pounding across an arid landscape (as we have always been shown in conventional reconstructions), Prof Ford will show that dinosaurs evolved under the constraints of an aquatic environment. All our films, articles and books will have to be reconsidered. This vividly illustrated talk is a “world preview” of the more detailed and technical presentation Prof Ford will be giving at a major lecture in London in April.

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NicoNicoGakkai Beta
Date & Time:11 Mar 2015 @ 7 pm
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Presenters:The NNGβ Team of 5
Sponsor:Science Centre Singapore
Synopsis:NicoNicoGakkai Beta is a new style of academy that emphasizes user-generated research. It is an online and offline research academy that recognizes research on a diversity of merits – from cultural and artistic values to academic and industrial strengths. /// There have been four NicoNicoGakkai Beta symposiums since 2011. For the first event, there was an audience of over 110,000, who left a total of more than 80,000 comments. /// Rapid Fire Research 100 was one of the two formats unique to this conference. In just 15 minutes, each of the five world class researchers made 20 pitches in their presentations. As a result, each speaker had to go through their 20~30 years-worth of research in a very short time. To the audience, it was an overview to each field as well as a motivating talk about how (initially) humble and error-prone research turns into world-changing results.

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Silicon Chips with Quantum Insides?
Date & Time:25 Mar 2015 @ 7:00 pm
Free admission for all pre-registered attendees.
Presenter:Prof John Morton, University College London
Sponsor:Centre for Quantum Technologies, NUS
Synopsis:For more than half a century, silicon has been the material platform for the information-processing revolution that has transformed our society. From Silicon Valley to Silicon Straits, this humble material has become synonymous with high-tech enterprises driven by the ever-increasing computational power and shrinking sizes of the CMOS processor. However, transistors cannot simply keep getting smaller – the characteristic size of CMOS transistors is now only 60 atoms wide! /// At such scales, the bizarre laws of Quantum Mechanics come into play: electrons can be in two places at the same time (called ‘superposition’) and they can ‘tunnel’ through barriers. Controlling electrons at these scales becomes a bit like herding (Schrödinger’s) cats, which makes it impossible to build basic computing components. Chip designers today have been applying all their ingenuity through novel designs, just to fend off this ‘quantum limit’ for a few more years, but reaching the limit is inevitable. /// Instead of trying to work around these troublesome quantum effects, it is possible to build an entirely new type of computer whose operations rely fundamentally on quantum features such as superposition. There is a wide range of different technologies being explored to build such a ‘quantum computer’, including arrays of trapped ions addressed by lasers, and circuits of superconducting aluminium kept a few thousandths of a degree above absolute zero. /// Recent results from laboratories around the world suggest that silicon can in fact provide a platform for such quantum processors – this includes superposition states that last for 3 hours, or being able to measure individual dopant atoms in silicon nano-devices. We still have a little way to go before silicon can be considered to be on an equal footing with other quantum computing designs, but this isn’t the first time silicon has played catch-up. After all, lead sulphide and germanium were used to make transistors before high-purity silicon and CMOS technology came along. So far, we have every reason to think that silicon will survive the next big computational leap, from the classical into the quantum age.

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Copying the Human Eye for Better Digital Camera Chips
Date & Time:2 Apr 2015 @ 7:00 pm
Free admission for all pre-registered attendees.
Presenter:Dr Timothy D Drysdale, University of Glasgow, Scotland
Sponsor:University of Glasgow, Singapore
Synopsis:Humans have been interested in photography since Aristotle and Euclid first created pinhole images, and now, it is an industry worth over $16 billion SGD annually, worldwide. Unfortunately, cameras do not always correctly capture the colour we expect. Some attempt is made by manufacturers to correct for this, but fundamentally the problem cannot be eradicated until camera filters closely mimic the filter function of the red, green and blue (RGB) photoreceptors (cones) in the human eye (for photopic vision). This cannot be achieved with conventional plastic filters, so we turn to structured optical materials (arrays of nano-holes in metal sheets, aka plasmonics) that give us the freedom to customise the filter function. We have designed, fabricated and characterised a set of CMOS-compatible, eye-like filters for use in a digital camera chip. Going further, if more colour channels than the eye's RGB is captured, then more information about the material properties of what is seen (aka multispectral imaging) can be extracted. Plasmonic filters however have too broad a bandwidth for multispectral imaging. Our novel combination of effective medium theory and Fabry-Perot filters allows us to demonstrate a single-lithography-cycle, CMOS-compatible 23-colour filter set, which enables compact multispectral imaging chips.

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The Quantum Moment
Date & Time:28 May 2015 @ 7:00 pm
Click here to check your complimentary entry eligibility.
Presenter:Prof Robert P Crease, Stony Brook University, NY, USA
Sponsor:Science Centre Singapore
Synopsis:We used to live in a homogeneous, continuous, Newtonian world in which all objects moved seamlessly from the past into the future, governed by universal mathematical laws. Then came the idea of the quantum in the early 1900s: that energy comes in finite packets instead of infinitely divisible quantities. Our reality became one of unpredictable "gaps, inconsistencies, warps and bubbles", as John Updike put it. /// Quantum imagery and language have since been bombarding us – like an endless stream of photons. The quantum vocabulary such as the multiverse, alternate universes, quantum leaps, the uncertainty principle, wave-particle duality, complementarity, and Schrödinger's cat, comes at us in cartoons and movies, coffee mugs and T-shirts, fiction and philosophy, … imagined and interpreted anew by succeeding generations of artists and writers. /// The Quantum Moment dramatizes the quantum’s shaky path from scientific theory to public acceptance and “understanding”. Quantum Mechanics changed the world by extinguishing the perfect determinism and mathematical predictability of the Newtonian universe. Prof Crease will explore the quantum’s implications for knowledge, metaphor, intellectual exchange, and the contemporary world. Understanding and appreciating the quantum language and imagery, and recognizing its misuse, is part of what it means to be an educated person today!

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Maxwell's Wave or Einstein's LichtQuanten? The Weirdness of Light
Date & Time:1 July 2015 @ 7:00 pm
Free admission for all pre-registered attendees.
Presenter:Prof Alain Aspect, Augustin Fresnel Professor, Institut d’Optique, Palaiseau, France
Sponsor:Centre for Quantum Technologies, NUS
Synopsis:Since the early days of quantum mechanics, interference between spatially separated trajectories of a single particle has not ceased to fascinate physicists. Prof Aspect will present experiments realized with a single photon, which have allowed us to emphasize the weirdness of the concept of wave-particle duality at the root of the quantum revolution of the 20th Century. Such single-photon sources are now an important resource in the domain of quantum information and quantum cryptography.

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How to Create Seasonal Cards using a Torchlight
Date & Time:5 August 2015 @ 7:00 pm
Click here to check your complimentary entry eligibility.
Presenter:Mr Charlie Lim, The Painter of Light
Sponsor:Science Centre Singapore
Synopsis:Charlie’s pictures are taken in the dark. With this technique, he has set a new trend in photography. Using one light source, he cleverly makes use of light and shadows to create awesome “Oil-Painting” photographs that resemble Rembrandt’s portraits! /// Come experience and marvel at his magical – yet scientific – technique.

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Breakfast with Pluto!
Date & Time:12 August 2015 @ 6:30 am
Free admission for all pre-registered attendees.
Presenter:Dr Carter Emmart, American Museum of Natural History
Sponsor:Science Centre Singapore
Synopsis:Join us for a first-ever LIVE theatre link-up between New York City’s Hayden Planetarium and Science Centre Singapore (SCS) with visiting Director of Astrovisualization, Dr Carter Emmart guiding audiences at both locations from SCS' Omni-Theatre, through a behind-the-scenes look at how the recent Pluto fly-by was visualized. /// The American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), in collaboration with Sweden’s Linkoping University and NASA’s New Horizons mission to Pluto, has created an interactive visualization of the encounter, using trajectory, guidance and observation scheduling data. /// This capability of networking scientists with audiences around the world to describe visualizations of their science is a prelude to what SCS is building as it expands its capabilities to meet Singapore’s future needs.

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Quantum Computing & the Limits of the Efficiently Computable
Date & Time:19 August 2015 @ 7:00 pm
Free admission for all pre-registered attendees.
Presenter:A/Prof Scott Aaronson, MIT
Sponsor:Centre for Quantum Technologies, NUS
Synopsis:Computational complexity – the study of what can and can't be feasibly computed – has been interacting with Physics in interesting and unexpected ways. This Café will include a “crash course” on computer science's P vs NP problem, as well as discuss the capabilities and limits of quantum computers, before proceeding to a critical discussion on speculative models of computation that go even beyond quantum computers, using (for example) special relativity and time travel to the past.

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Saving GAIA - Women Tackling Climate Change
Date & Time:16 September 2015 @ 7:00 pm
Free admission for all pre-registered attendees.
Presenters:The Panel: moderated by Ms Diyanah Hardy, Singapore Committee for UN Women
  • Dr Nathalie Goodkin, Associate Professor, Asian School of the Environment, NTU
  • Dr Annette Bolton, Research Fellow, Earth Observatory of Singapore
  • Dr Reshmi Das, Senior Research Fellow, Earth Observatory of Singapore
  • Dr Linda Sellou, Department of Chemistry, NUS
  • Dr Joanna Coleman, Ecologist, Conservation Biologist, and Lecturer, NUS
  • Ms Tracy Mann, Founding Director, Climate Wise Women on the effects of climate change on women and the world's poor
Sponsor:Singapore Committee for UN Women
Synopsis:Learn about and discuss the issues with our panel of passionate experts:
  • What is climate change? What are its causes? What are its effects/impacts?
  • Women and climate change: How does climate change directly affect women around the globe?
  • Q&A and discussion with the panellists

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Aviation and the Environment
Date & Time:14 October 2015 @ 7:00 pm
Free admission for all pre-registered attendees.
Registration and refreshments begin at 6:15pm.
Presenter:Prof Richard J Parker, Rolls Royce Group
Sponsor:The Institution of Engineers Singapore
The Institution of Mechanical Engineers Singapore Branch
The Singapore Institute of Aerospace Engineers
Synopsis:Tremendous progress in performance, efficiency and noise reduction has been made over the history of the jet engine, culminating in the new generation of engines powering the Boeing 787 and the Airbus A350. In this Café, the technical challenges that need to be overcome to develop future engines and to ensure that this progress continues, will be discussed. This advancement is essential for future generations to continue to benefit from affordable air travel. There is much additional work ahead and engineers will have a big part in developing this exciting future.

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When Life Got Big & Snowball Earth
Date & Time:28 October 2015 @ 7:00 pm
Click here to check your complimentary entry eligibility.
Presenter:Emeritus Prof Patricia Vickers-Rich, Monash University
Sponsor:Science Centre Singapore
Synopsis:The first animals that were big enough to see with the naked eye, first appeared during a time when the Earth’s climate was “dynamic” – when glaciations on a global scale were in progress. This led to more oxygen in the waters and skies, and the “sweetening” of the seas, ie they got less saline! In this Café, Pat will relate those tumultuous times on Earth when life was in flux.

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Being ‘Here First’ Determines ‘What’s Fair’ for Immigrants
The Autochthony Orientations Model
Date & Time:7 November 2015 @ 2:30 pm
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Presenters:Mr Benjamin Low & Mr Murli Ravi
Sponsor:Social Psychology (Singapore) in collaboration with HangOut@SCS
Synopsis:“Singapore for Singaporeans” has often been debated as an anti-immigrant stance, a concern for ‘our’ well-being, or a blend of both. The ‘us and ours’ narrative has also become a global phenomenon in recent years. Current understanding is based on racial or inter-group explanations that do not address why a local populace feels entitled to privileges over immigrants. /// Autochthony does. It holds that the first occupants of a territory are its rightful owners with the most right to decide on national matters. Anthropologists have documented the exclusionary and prejudicial manifestations of autochthony. The presenter suggests that autochthony can be manifested in positive and negative ways. This is because it is fundamentally about setting the boundaries wherein the alien ‘other’ can be tolerated. The Autochthony Orientations Model will elaborate on these boundary-setting attitudes and discuss the conditions under which it results in prejudice. /// Murli Ravi will touch on his experience as an expatriate who has made Singapore home for over 17 years. His relationships, aspirations, and travails offer a rare glimpse on the (inter-) personal aspects of life in Singapore from a perspective that few are privy to. His fresh insights will give us pause to consider the nature of identity, on both a personal and a societal level.

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My Memorable Fossil-Hunting Trips
The Discovery of Earliest Known Craniate-like Chordate
Date & Time:14 November 2015 @ 2:00 pm
Free admission for all pre-registered attendees.
Presenter:Prof Li Chia-Wei, National Tsing Hua University, Taiwan
Sponsor:Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum, NUS
Department of Biological Sciences, NUS
Synopsis:Prof Li has been particularly intrigued by the enigmatic origin of animals. Ancient rocks, dated back to 500-600 million years ago, may hold fossil clues to the answer. The Late Precambrian and Early Cambrian fossil sites, including the Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau of South China, the outback of Central Australia, the White Sea of North Russia, and the Namibia Desert of Africa, have been his favourite fossil hunting fields during the past two decades. The earliest-known animals and the earliest-known craniates were excavated in these memorable trips.

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Raising An Exceptional Bilingual Child
Date & Time:15 November 2015 @ 3:00 pm
Click here to check your complimentary entry eligibility.
Presenters:Mrs Patricia Koh, CE, MapleBear PreSchools & Founder of Pat's Schoolhouse
Ms Tracy Tai, Director Special Education, Olive Tree EduCentre
Dr Ngiam Xin Ying, Paediatrician, International Baby Child & Adolescent Clinic
Sponsor:Social Psychology (Singapore) in collaboration with HangOut@SCS
Synopsis:How do we raise kids with character, confidence and resilience? Positive learning experiences is a foundation for academic excellence. It is also important to address social-emotional issues faced by children in a competitive setting. In this seminar, we highlight current practices and emerging research on holistic education and giftedness that are fundamental to raising an exceptional child; as well as building the scaffold for children with learning differences.

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A History of Anatomy in Classical Art
Anatomy, Art & Radiology Merging in the 21st Century?
Date & Time:16 November 2015 @ 7:00 pm
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Presenter:Prof Peter Abrahams, The University of Warwick Medical School, UK
Sponsor:Science Centre Singapore
Synopsis:The world of art and the anatomical sciences did not merge until 1543 – the beginning of evidence-based medicine – when Vesalius published the world’s first proper illustrated anatomical text and atlas, De Humani Corporis Fabrica. Until then, the world of art was ahead of the scientific community, especially with artists such as Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo who had already dissected and drawn the human body and used their illustrations to great effect in their expressive works, in both painting and sculpture. The human body in art however dates back to the beginning of man’s origins – to at least 30,000 years. Prof Abrahams will chart both a history of the human body in art and how its representation has differed over the centuries as well as show how details of anatomy in both art and medical radiology, have become art works in themselves, especially with such modern technologies as video-morphing, 3D rotations, and the advent of digital technology which makes the division of art and science seems redundant!

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Using Biomaterials to Talk to Stem Cells
Date & Time:18 November 2015 @ 7:00 pm
Free admission for all pre-registered attendees.
Presenter:Prof Manuel Salmeron-Sanchez, University of Glasgow, Scotland
Sponsor:University of Glasgow, Singapore
Synopsis:Stem cells are undifferentiated cells that have the potential to become almost any kind of mature cell in our body – as long as the appropriate conditions are provided to them. We can find these cells in a variety of tissues in our body, such as bone and fat. These cells can be isolated from the body and afterwards expanded in the lab. They can then be differentiated into almost any desired lineage, such as bone, cartilage, muscle and adipose tissue. The way to do this is normally using complex cell culture media. However, the compositions of these culture media are not always well-known or understood – as they are proprietary to the private companies that provide them. In this Café, we will show that we can design biomaterials with different properties so that they can direct the behaviour of stem cells. For example: by culturing these cells on stiff surfaces, they become bone; while on soft materials, they result in adipose or cartilage cells. Stem cells will be introduced and explained by the way cells communicate with their environment, including material surfaces, and how, by understanding this language, we can design better biomaterials that control stem cell behaviour in very precise ways. This has important consequences in addressing a number of degenerative diseases currently without any treatment; eg: musculoskeletal conditions, cardiovascular problems and neurological disorders.

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The Science of Perfumery
Date & Time:3 December 2015 @ 7:00 pm
Click here to check your complimentary entry eligibility.
Presenter:Ms Prachi Saini Garg, Je t'aime Perfumery Singapore
Sponsor:Science Centre Singapore
Synopsis:Your nose connects you to your memories. The scents it picks up bring out all sort of associations with tastes, objects, relationships, occasions, etc. How? What are the aromas that activate your memory (and stimulate you)? These and other questions are explored in this Café, by expert perfumer, Ms Prachi Saini.

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