Merton Presentations 2016


Week 3, Saturday: Deadline for titles and abstracts submissions. 

Week 6, Tuesday and Wednesday 16:00-18:00 (Ian Taylor Room): Rehearsals. 

Tuesday Wednesday
16:00 - 16:30Ilya Lapan
16:30 - 17:00Jacob White Toby Adkins
17:00 - 17:30David Hosking Caleb Rich
17:30 - 18:00Ewan McCulloch Robert Stemmons

Week 8, Tuesday 16:00-19:00 (Ian Taylor Room): Final presentations.

Titles and Abstracts


The Wisdom and Madness of Crowds: A Warning for the Future

The 'crowd' is often a word used to refer disparagingly to the homogeneous masses of society, with no thought given to the positive connotations of the word. Spring boarding o the ideas outlined by James Suroweicki in his book "The Wisdom of Crowds", this talk will discuss how the collective intelligence and collaborative power of the crowd in our in- creasingly inter-connected society can become undermined by more subtle and, potentially, sinister aspects of crowd behaviour. These, I believe, serve as a warning for the future that cannot be ignored.


The Echidna Code - An Exploration of Alan Turing’s Theory of Morphogenesis

Alan Turing’s accomplishments in the field of computer science are legendary, but less well known is his contribution to the field of mathematical biology. In his 1952 paper ‘The Chemical Theory of Morphogenesis’, Turing proposed a mechanism by which the genes contained in a zygote might determine the anatomical structure of the organism it develops into. Turing realised that this phenomenon, called morphogenesis, can be accounted for by a simple model in which the chemical substances that trigger growth are allowed to both react chemically with each other and diffuse through tissue. In this talk, I will describe how Turing formalised this idea mathematically, and applied it to a simple model of an organism in the early stages of its development. I will then explore the predictions of such a model of morphogenesis, and discuss the evidence for the approach from observations of real organisms. If time permits, I will use computer simulations to apply Turing’s model to more complex cell structures, and examine the effect of non-linearity in the model. 


Fluid simulations for use in computer graphics

Fluid simulation is possible one of the most widely used tools of computer graphics with a great range of applications, including, but not limited to, films, advertisements, video games. Fluid simulation is not the only application of physics to computer graphics, rigid and soft body dynamics and optics are commonly used but what makes fluid simulation special from other areas is that it requires the most insight in to underlying physics and not just knowledge of computer algorithms. Fluid behavior is too complex to be animated ”by hand” (which is commonly done with rigid and even soft body dynamics) and in my opinion produces the most stunning results in the end. The main governing equations for fluids are Navier–Stokes equations, which are on their own quite interesting, as there is still no proof of existence of smooth analytical solution of them. So the goal is to produce numerical solution to those equations (while allowing some very crude approximations) which can then be presented in a visually pleasing and plausible form for the viewer in the most efficient and fast way to create tools for animators and artists too use. I will discuss some of underlying physics of the problem, methods and techniques for the problem and present implementations of some of the algorithms. I will also discuss technique that can be used to achieve better performance when executing such algorithms and touch on the topic of parallel computing in the context of the problem. 


The Fractal Dimension of Music

Fractals geometry is a dramatic departure from the Euclidean system, possessing properties unheard of in all other geometries. Fractals have the bizarre properties of fractional dimensionality, Self similarity with different scaling and are continuous yet nowhere differentiable. Despite there puzzling nature they are abundant in nature and to some degree even music is fractal. In this presentation I will be investigating how the property of fractional dimensionality may be exploited to analyse and characterise different music styles.


Quantum Biology: a bird’s eye view

On the face of it, the surprising predictions of quantum theory seem at odds with living organisms in the natural world. However discoveries in recent years have suggested that precisely these quantum effects may play an important part in many biological processes, from the ability of birds to navigate using the Earth’s magnetic field to the basis of our sense of smell, and even perhaps the all-important process of photosynthesis. In my talk I will introduce this exciting field before looking in-depth into the theory of the role of quantum theory in the navigational sense of the European robin and the evidence that supports this intriguing proposal.


Current Events - Gravitational Waves

Recently, the press has been flooded with the recent discovery of gravitational waves. This announcement has rippled through social media - But why is this discovery making waves? In this talk I will describe the theory that predicted the waves, how they were detected, and the event that caused them, before explaining what this discovery means for the future of science.


The little ion engine that could 

When we imagine interplanetary travel, we tend to think of huge machines trailing great plumes of fire. But in reality, chemical rockets are limited in the journeys they can achieve by the mass of fuel they require. This talk will discuss electrical propulsion as an alternative, outlining the theory of how it works, and the various forms of propulsion that are or could be in use. We will touch on the key concepts of space travel, such as Specific Impulse and delta-V, and compare the chemical engine to the electric one. We will end with a brief discussion of Project Orion, the USA’s novel idea for building a rocket by (you guessed it) strapping an enormous nuclear bomb to the bottom.