Adults Only! Festival of the Spoken Nerd, and Surgical Spirit: The Science of Cocktails


Jun 16 2014 by glencarrigan

The University of Central Lancashire is hosting Lancashire Science Festival again this year! After our huge success last year with Titan the robot and Matt Dickinson’s Science of Star Wars amongst a whole host of other fantastic events, the public are gearing up to experience all things science yet again.

This year we have some special late night, adults only events, because adults love science too! Festival of the Spoken Nerdfeatures Helen Arney, a geeky songstress, Matt Parker a stand-up mathematician (maths can be funny?), and the BBC’s Steve Mould. This will be an excellent show, having met Helen Arney before, I was blown away with her perfect blend of music, wit, science and satire… and the glasses too – an act you just can’t miss!
Our second adults only event is Surgical Spirit: The Science of Cocktails. Have you ever wondered about the physiology of booze? Well, why don’t you join science-mixologist Noel Jackson to find out what exactly goes on in your favourite drink – we all know what happens after you’ve drank it…. never again! Ticket price includes 5 cocktails, of which you’ll get an amazing hangover-free cocktail!

Festival of the Spoken Nerd
Thursday 26 June 2014, 1930, 53Degrees, UCLan
Quote ‘FOTSN’ for discounted tickets at £11.00 + booking fee (down from £15.00)

Surgical Spirit: The Science of Cocktails
Friday 27 June 2014, 1930, Foster Building, UCLan
Quote ‘Surgical Spirit Discount’ for Tickets at £15.00 + booking fee, includes 5 cocktails (down from £20)


Top TV Scientist Draws a Crowd at UCLan

George McGavin

Jun 12 2014 by glencarrigan

Glen Carrigan, Masters by research student UCLan School of Psychology, palaeontologist Dr Robert Asher, associate lecturer in computer aided engineering at UCLan Matt Dickinson and Television presenter Dr George McGavin.

Written by: Rachel Atkinson, 09 June 2014, original article.

The BBC’s Dr George McGavin was the headline speaker at a science event.

One of the country’s top entomologists drew a crowd at a public lecture at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan).

Television presenter Dr George McGavin, who is a regular contributor to the BBC’s One Show, was the headline speaker at the Evening of Science and Reason.

He was joined at the free student led event by Dr Robert Asher and UCLan’s Matt Dickinson. All three talks were designed to highlight scientific discovery and ethical living in a modern world.

Dr McGavin, who has recently presented Monkey Planet for BBC1, gave a talk entitled Insects: Sex, violence and a cast of billions. Dr Asher, a palaeontologist specialising in mammals, presented Evolution, Reason, and Religion and Matt Dickinson talked about The Science of Superheroes.

Organiser Glen Carrigan, who is a Masters by Research Student in UCLan’s School of Psychology, said: “An Evening of Science and Reason was a huge success. With Matt Dickinson showing us how his fully functional iron man helmet worked, Dr Robert Asher weighing up his religious belief whilst being a palaeontologist and Dr George McGavin telling us how much sex insects have whilst he threw melons around the room, there truly was something for everyone.”

“I set up this project in order to stimulate scientific and ethical debate, and feel that this aim was definitely achieved. We hope to hold more events like this in the future and wish to thank all of our guests and fantastic volunteers for coming along.”


An Evening of Science and Reason

Apr 30 2014 by glencarrigan

Poster 06.06.14 event George, Robert and Matt

Come along to An Evening of Science and Reason on the 6th of June with Doctor George McGavin, Dr Robert Asher and Matt Dickinson at the University of Central Lancashire’s 3d Lecture Theatre in Darwin Building (DBLT). The Theatre has featured various well known scientists in the past such as Professor Richard Dawkins and many others including most recent, Professor Robin Dunbar. So come along and be part of what promises to be and interesting and entertaining event.

An Evening of Science and Reason

The University of Central Lancashire

Friday, 6th June, (Darwin Building Lecture Theatre), 1700 – 2100

Organised by Glen Carrigan, University of Central Lancashire


  • 1700        Doors open, meet and greet by Science and Reason staff and exhibitions
  • 1800        Dr George McGavin “Insects: Sex, violence and a cast of billions”
  • 1900        Dr Robert Asher “Evolution, Reason, and Religion”
  • 2000       Matt Dickinson “The Science of Superheroes”
  • 2100        Glen Carrigan “Thanks and closing remarks”

CLICK HERE to book a ticket!


Theoretical and Applied Aspects of Distraction: An International Symposium

Glen Carrigan, John Marsh Symposium ay UCLan, 30th April 2014

Apr 28 2014 by glencarrigan

The University of Central Lancashire

Wednesday 30th April, (Adelphi Building Lecture Theatre 2), 9: 30 am – 15:00 pm

Organised by Dr John Marsh and Glen Carrigan, University of Central Lancashire


  • 9:30 am           Overview of the Symposium by John E. Marsh

Session 1 (9:45 am – 10:45 am):Attentional Capture and Cognitive Control

  • 9:45 am        Jessica K. Ljungberg (Umeå University, Sweden) “What’s In a Name? No More than when it’s Mine Own”: Evidence from Auditory Oddball Distraction
  • 10:00 am     Robert F. Potter (Distinguished Visitor, Indiana University, US) Two Really is Better than One: The Voice Change as a Means to Increase Attention to Radio Messages
  • 10:15 am       Robert W. Hughes (Royal Holloway, University of London) Auditory Distraction: A Duplex-Mechanism Account
  • 10:30 am       John E. Marsh (University of Central Lancashire) Cognitive Control of Distraction: Task Difficulty Eliminates Attenuates the Between-Sequence Semantic Similarity Effect
  • 10:45 am         Break/Group Discussion


Session 2 (11:00 am – 12:00 pm): Applied Aspects of Distraction

  • 11:00 am        Faye C. Skelton (University of Central Lancashire) In the Face of Distraction: The Impact of Changing-State Speech on Person Identification
  • 11:15 am         Charlie F. Frowd (University of Winchester) The Impact of Weapons and Unusual Objects on Face Recall and Composite  Construction
  • 11:30 am         Patrik Sörqvist (via Skype; University of Gavle, Sweden) Task Difficulty and Distractibility: Basic and Applied Aspects
  • 11:45 am         François Vachon (Université Laval, Canada) Reverberation and Multiple Voices: Solutions to Reduce the Cognitive Impact of Office Noise
  • 12 pm              Lunch



UCLan Psychology; Genetics and Neuropsychology

Mar 18 2014 by glencarrigan

What is Neuropsychology?

DNA extraction

Neuropsychology is the study of how we think, and also how the physical brain helps us to interact with the world. Neuropsychologists seek to find how behaviour can highlight problems in the brain, and also help to indicate if there is a biological or psychological basis to many conditions. As you can probably guess, neuropsychology is a cross between neurology and psychology. Neuropsychologists can work as part of a team involving amongst others: neuroscientists, biologists, neurologists, psychologists and many other “ists”. Many practitioners are invested in applying the science directly to help clinical patients, others help by developing new techniques to achieve this, and other neuropsychologists conduct research into many related areas. Neuropsychologists use many different tools from behavioural questionnaires to sophisticated scanning techniques at the cutting edge of technology. One such recent development in technology has been dubbed “clarity” and is truly mind blowing, having been covered in a very accessible video by the guardian.



mouse brain

Memories in the Making; Neuroscientists Observe Memory Formation

Jan 29, 2014 by glencarrigan

For the first time in history, neuroscientists are observing memory formation and transmission around the brain of a mammal. Developing on advances in the field of RNA research, this astounding discovery really does reveal how this particular function of the brain might work.

Memory is a complex cognitive process comprising many different facets. Before we have a memory (that which we can reconstruct) it has to be encoded in the brain in some way. This is an ever-changing process that is not entirely understood but what we do know is that an initial phase of encoding must take place; this can involve visual, auditory, olfactory perception and more, with a system of storage following its receipt. READ MORE HERE



Women in Science

The Students

Please support Francesca Sloane and company in their bid to go to China and promote science. It’s very important that we encourage young scientists to get out into the world with their research, and I for one think that enabling such opportunities for young women is a very worthy cause. I first met Francesca at The Big Bang in Liverpool’s World Museum when I was presenting Genetics and Neuropsychology. She’d just won a competition with regards to her project ‘Genetic Transformation of E. coli Bacteria with the pGLO Plasmid.’ I remember thinking to myself that I’d never met such an impressive and confident young woman before and that she deserved to win hands down. The prize was the trip to China although it is only partly funded and so the team are embarking on a charity drive to raise the shortfall. If you can help please do.

From the JustGiving profile:

Comet ISON

ISON by Damian Peach

Nov 24 2013 by glencarrigan

As a Science communicator and one of many insignificant humans – especially in the face of such an ancient object – I find myself extremely excited by the prospect of seeing comet ISON on the Eastern Horizon on the 3rd of December. The last time I was this excited by something in Science it was one our our own acheivements of putting Curiosity on Mars (which I got up very early to watch). This is wonder and grandeur of a more primal nature, free of human interaction, something truly transcendent. It may be something many of us will never see the like of again and so to miss out this time would be a terrible shame. So what is so special about this particular lump hurtling through space?

Comet ISON has come from the Oort cloud which is a large region filled with such relics at the very edge of this solar system. It is believed to have remained in the Oort cloud until it was ejected by the gravity of a neighbouring star. This has led to our star (the Sun) tugging on the comet and pulling it ever closer towards it.

The Sun's corona can only be seen when the Sun itself is obscured

What is so special about this comet is that due to its current trajectory it will pass very close to our Sun indeed. This has earned it the name “sungrazer” as it will pass through the Sun’s corona; the extended outer atmosphere of the Sun. This is a perilous journey for this mass of what is believed to be mostly rock, gas and ice, as the Sun’s rays may obliterate it entirely. This, however, is what will give us our best view of it. As the comet comes into contact with ever increasing ultra violet radiation we can be promised a spectacular view of its tail on its approach. There exist three possible outcomes for ISON at this point as outlined by Dr Matthew Knight from Lowell Observatory in Arizona.



Richard III – “fit to work”

Richard III; credit Apic/Getty images

Feb 16 Posted by

This was fantastic news and what’s more, the evidence revealled that DNA, wounds at the time of death, carbon dating and some historical (although some historical accounts were doctored by the tudors) accounts all prove it was him. A triumph for the convergence of Scientific evidence as our only means of knowing what is true in reality. Further, it’s a testament to the superiority of Science over anecdotal accounts as they can and will be falsified, bias or complete fabrications. I would suggest looking for the entire documentary as it was a great watch if a little melowdramatic although I think they can be given a break for that to be honest, it was an excellent find. The discovery even caused Labour’s Michael McCann to ask the prime minister if Richard the third was “fit to work” a political dig about the private firm Atos carrying out welfare-to-work assessments which I found quite apt and amusing. If anyone is interested or a budding Scientist, reading up on DNA and carbon dating is well worth doing as it will help you to understand much of the important Science out there including the theory of evolution, the age of the earth and more, relevant links can be found here.

News coverage – BBC News

National Geographic


Black holes growing faster than expected at UCLan

The famous early-type spiral galaxy Messier 104, widely known as the Sombrero

The Sombrero Galaxy

Congratulations are in order for Dr Victor Debattista of  The University of Central Lancashire. This is one of the most interesting things in Astrophysics right now, it’s good to see progress being made in understanding black holes and their effects

“New study by Dr Victor Debattista has been published in Astrophysical Journal

Lurking at the centres of most galaxies are black holes that can weigh anywhere from one million to one billion times as much as the Sun.

New research, published today in the Astrophysical Journal, shows that these black holes are growing at much larger rates than had previously been thought possible. Even the black hole in our own Milky Way Galaxy, which otherwise appears very quiet, has probably been consuming the equivalent of one Sun every 3000 years.

Until recently astronomers had thought that black holes grow mostly when galaxies crash into each other, at which time a large concentration of gas forms around the black hole and gets very hot, shining very brightly in what is known as an active galactic nucleus.

This gas gets so bright that active galactic nuclei can be seen all the way back to shortly after the Universe first formed.  This theory held that black holes in the centres of ordinary spiral galaxies like our own Milky Way cannot grow much.”

Author: Rachel E Atkinson

For the full details click here


Darwin Day

Take the opportunity today of all days to look into Darwin’s theory of evolution something many people say they “know” about but clearlydo not. You will find that most people claiming to know about evolution and saying they don’t believe it actually have no idea at all what it is using flawed and misunderstood arguments to try and disprove it (missing links etc) and preserve they’re fragile psyche and faith. It doesn’t take your belief in a fact to make it a fact nor does ignorance invalidate it. To understand nature we must understand Darwin’s theory and I’m afraid that also means letting go of any notion that we are special within the cosmos because we’re not and that is an amazingly grand thought. We are the product of chemical elements evolving into biological entities with DNA, replicating, mutating, naturally selecting advantageous random mutations in a non-random way in order to adapt to the environment.


Junior University, teaching psychology to under 16s

Teaching psychology this year to the under 16s in and around the University of Central Lancashire has been a challenge and a joy. The focus of the lessons was to deliver them in an interactive way in an effort to keep the attention of all students, especially those who’s attention wavers over long periods. I noticed that the more gory the story (phineas gage/ gerbils and anxiolytic drugs) the more reactive the students became and also the more interactive (obedience, EEG, social influence) the more excited they become. These insights led to the adaptation of some material and introduction of new subjects to capitalise on what seemed to be the most interesting.

The students particularly loved the pretend EEG (shower cap, cables, video output on a student), social influence “mind reading”, Milgram’s mock up experiment where one student delivers shock and one screams (obviously no electricity involved)  cognitive tasks, perception imagery, Dr Rumbaugh’s animal language and the narcissistic (sense of self) dolphins topics.

Inspiration was drawn from many areas of my study including historical accounts of the behaviours of Hitler and Stalin along with Milgram’s studies, recent animal behaviour documentaries and popular entertainer Derren Brown all together with psychological and technical explanations as to why these and many other things happen.


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