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Showing posts from May, 2015

Troubled waters

Water seems like the simplest of molecules, but its complexities have enabled all life on Earth. Its high specific heat capacity allowed early aquatic life to survive extreme temperature fluctuations, its ability to dissolve a wide range of compounds means it is used as a solvent for cellular compounds, and its powerful cohesive properties allow tree sap and blood to move upwards, against the flow of gravity.



ITV science correspondent Alok Jha discussed the incredible properties of water this week as part of a Cabot Institute and Festival of Ideas talk at The Watershed, Bristol.  This was part of a promotional tour for his new book, The Water Book. He amazed the audience with where our oceans came from (ice-covered rocks pelting the Earth during the Late Heavy Bombardment), the strange properties of ice (a bizarre solid that floats on its liquid), and the possibility of water and life on other planets.

It was really the universal importance of water that struck me though. As Alok disc…

Why partnerships are so vital to the University of Bristol and the Cabot Institute (part 1)

Launching VENTURE during Bristol 2015 
VENTURE is a new collaborative framework for the Cabot Institute and some of our key corporate partners. Building stronger partnerships with our City has been the major theme of our engagement with the European Green Capital year. VENTURE, then, represents the latest step (including Bristol is Open, the UK Collaboration for Research and Infrastructure and Cities, and the launch of a new project on Re-Distributed Manufacturing and the Resilient, Sustainable City) in the progression of how we are engaging with Bristol and the South West Region.  This is the first of two blogs that explore the intrinsic value of partnership to the Cabot Institute, what we have achieved and our aspirations.
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On 18 March, the Cabot Institute and the University of Bristol PVC for Research launched VENTURE, a new initiative and network that will facilitate the partnership of Cabot Institute academics with key corporate partners.  The focus of VENTURE is on the r…

The benefits of investing in a community-owned solar array

On Saturday 9 May 2015, Low Carbon Gordano officially opened their Moorhouse Farm Solar Array, with the Mayor of Bristol George Ferguson conducting proceedings. The array, sited within the jurisdiction of Bristol on farmland between the M49 and M5, has a nameplate capacity of 1.875 MW and cost £2.2 million to install. The money was raised entirely by public share offer and community owned (and in very small part by me). Over the course of a year the array is expected to produce >1,700 MWh of electricity, which using the inevitable conversion, is enough to power 500 homes, and more importantly and relevantly for this blog, save around 850 tonnes of CO2 per annum compared to fossil fuels.

The Moorhouse Farm Array is one of a number of community owned solar arrays in the South West, an area whose large areas of farmland and (for the UK) relatively high solar irradiance makes it an ideal site for significant solar photovoltaic (PV) generation. In the UK, solar PV generation has doubled…

Top 5 things to see at the University of Bristol tent at the Festival of Nature

When I was told I would be coordinating all the marketing materials for the University of Bristol stands at the Festival of Nature, I was quite excited. Being a nature lover, I knew the job would fit me well. What I wasn’t prepared for was all the amazing things that our researchers have been working on and will be showing off at this year’s festival. I am really pleased to be involved in helping them to showcase their nature-based research and I hope you all enjoy the experience when you come and visit us.

Here are my top five things to look out for when you visit the University of Bristol tent:

1. Explore how your genes might help you to fight the flu
Who knew that your genetics can determine how well you can fight off the flu? At this stall you will find some biologists and veterinary scientists who will be showing you how your immune system has to keep up with ever-evolving viruses in order to keep your body free from infection. Expect to get involved in a ‘war’ between the virus…

Floes, leads and CTD’s: The state of the ice at 83°

The air at 82° 23’ North is crisp and still, and the afternoon sun blazes down on the ice floe we hope to call home for the next three months. The gentle hum of the Research Vessel (R/V) Lance’s engine some 300 metres away, and the regular click of the winch deploying our oceanographic profilers below the ice sheet, breaks the all-consuming silence in this seemingly barren wilderness. A walkie-talkie crackles into life from my pocket; a message from the ship! Norwegian isn’t my strong point, but one word in particular causes my ears to prick up in concern: ‘Isbjørn’, or, ‘Polar Bear’. For those aboard the Lance, this is a prime opportunity to grab a camera and be the envy of all their friends back home. For those of us ambling about on the ice, away from the cosy confines of our floating laboratory, pulses quicken as we try to withdraw our equipment without compromising the all-important data…

The Norwegian Young Sea Ice Cruise (N-ICE2015) is a truly international effort, with researc…

Power, policy and piranhas: Martin Bigg on energy

When it comes to energy solutions, we need to be like Martin Bigg’s favourite fish; the piranha. Why do we need to be like a flesh-eating aquatic animal to get these solutions? Because being passive isn’t working.

Such was the closing message of Bigg’s talk at the Bristol Politics Café in the kitchen of The Station. Bigg’s talk entitled ‘Energy generation, use and denial’ was a well-integrated combination of academic analysis and challenging chit-chat about the UK’s energy enigmas.

While his concluding remark was engineered to influence our future actions, Bigg cleverly began with the UK’s energy past. He walked us through the history of UK energy supply, intertwining the physical processes of production with the bureaucracy and politics.

This technique highlighted how energy has been manipulated time and time again to fulfil regulations and financial expectations. Coal fired power stations built in the 1970’s are still producing today, requiring a string of expensive modifications i…