News archive 2010
Materials scientist to give RI Lecture17 Aug 2010, PR 174/10
Renowned materials scientist Dr Mark Miodownik, in the School of Natural and Mathematical Sciences at King’s, has been invited to give the 2010 Royal Institution Christmas Lecture. The Royal Institution (Ri) Christmas Lectures have been inspiring children and adults alike since 1825. They are Ri’s biggest and most public facing, fun-filled science events for young people.
The Christmas Lectures were initiated by chemist and physicist Michael Faraday at a time when organised education for young people was scarce. He presented 19 series of Christmas Lectures himself, establishing an exciting new venture of teaching science to young people.
Many world-famous scientists have given the lectures including Nobel Prize winners: William and Lawrence Bragg, Sir David Attenborough, George Porter and Dame Nancy Rothwell.
The Ri Christmas Lectures have been aired on television since 1966, on the BBC until 1999 and then on Channel Five, Channel Four and more4. This year the three-part series lecture series, called ‘Size Matters’, will air on BBC Four in late December.
Dr Miodownik said, 'I am over the moon with excitement. It's such a very special honour to be following in the footsteps of my scientific hero Michael Faraday to give the Christmas Lectures in exactly the same place he stood 180 years ago at the Royal Institution. I watched the Christmas lectures myself as a child and I hope I can do my bit to inspire the next generation to become scientists.'
Dr Miodownik will explore the peculiar living and non-living matter that makes up the universe and will ask the eternal question - does size matter? He will explain how hamsters can survive falling from an aircraft without a parachute, why our planet is so puny, and explain the extraordinary hidden powers of human hair.
The first lecture entitled ‘Why elephants can’t dance’ will examine how ants manage to carry 300 times their own weight; the amount of sleep that mammals need is in proportion to their size; and how we have pieced together some of the physical rules that govern the strength, life span and dance moves of animals.
The second lecture, ‘Why chocolate melts and jet planes don't’, will explore the tiny world we have created inside mobile phones, jet planes and chocolate. Dr Miodownik will take us on a journey into the inner space of the things around us to find out how the very small affects the very large. He shows that even the taste of chocolate depends on the size of extraordinary crystals which are designed only to melt in your mouth.
The final lecture in the series, ‘Why mountains are so small’, will discuss the engineering marvel of the world's tallest building and ask whether we could we build a tower to reach the moon? The curious way that gravity affects large things is nothing to the effect that time has on them. Could this explain why Earth's mountains are small fry compared with other mountains in the universe?
Gail Cardew, Head of Programmes at the Ri, said: 'We are delighted to have discovered an amazing new talent in Mark Miodownik. We are also thrilled to be partnering with BBC Four to deliver one of Britain’s most treasured Christmas traditions in a new and exciting format.'
Chris Mottershead, Vice-Principal (Reseach & Innovation) at King's added, ‘This is wonderful news and very much in keeping with the College’s mission of working ‘in the service of society’. Anyone who has heard Mark perform in the lecture theatre or at a science festival will know that he is an utterly compelling presenter, and it is particularly exciting that through the RI Christmas lectures, the College, and particularly the new School of Natural and Mathematical Sciences, will be associated with a public engagement initiative that will reach millions.’
Notes to editors
About Mark Miodownik
Mark Miodownik is a Reader in Materials Science. He received his PhD in turbine jet engine alloys from Oxford University in 1996. He is a member of the Materials and Molecular Modelling Group, Department of Physics, in the School of Natural and Mathematical Sciences at King's, where his main research area is self-organising materials.
Mark is also a broadcaster and writer on science and engineering issues, and believes passionately that to engineer is human. In 2003 he co-founded Materials Library which has been actively researching the sensoaesthetic properties of materials to understand why materials feel, smell and taste the way they do.
This work has resulted in collaborations with designers, architects, artists, as well as many museums, such as the Tate Modern, the Hayward Gallery and the Wellcome Collection. Mark regularly gives popular lectures on engineering including talks to public, festival, and school audiences. He plays a key role in organising, and contributing to, the annual Cheltenham Science Festival, of which King's is a partner.
King's College London
King's College London is one of the top 25 universities in the world (Times Higher Education 2009) and the fourth oldest in England. A research-led university based in the heart of London, King's has nearly 23,000 students (of whom more than 8,600 are graduate students) from nearly 140 countries, and some 5,500 employees. King's is in the second phase of a £1 billion redevelopment programme which is transforming its estate.
King's has an outstanding reputation for providing world-class teaching and cutting-edge research. In the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise for British universities, 23 departments were ranked in the top quartile of British universities; over half of our academic staff work in departments that are in the top 10 per cent in the UK in their field and can thus be classed as world leading. The College is in the top seven UK universities for research earnings and has an overall annual income of nearly £450 million.
King's has a particularly distinguished reputation in the humanities, law, the sciences (including a wide range of health areas such as psychiatry, medicine and dentistry) and social sciences including international affairs. It has played a major role in many of the advances that have shaped modern life, such as the discovery of the structure of DNA and research that led to the development of radio, television, mobile phones and radar. It is the largest centre for the education of healthcare professionals in Europe; no university has more Medical Research Council Centres.
King's College London and Guy's and St Thomas', King's College Hospital and South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trusts are part of King's Health Partners. King's Health Partners Academic Health Sciences Centre (AHSC) is a pioneering global collaboration between one of the world's leading research-led universities and three of London's most successful NHS Foundation Trusts, including leading teaching hospitals and comprehensive mental health services. For more information, visit: www.kingshealthpartners.org.
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