YorkTalks Session Four

3.45pm, National Science Learning Centre

The air we breathe the European Union decision to cut taxes on diesel cars in the 1990s has had unintended consequences for tens of thousands of people whose lives have been cut short by engine emissions of nitrogen dioxide. Atmospheric chemist Ally Lewis will reveal how our political leaders have known about this danger for years but have failed to act. Sophisticated monitoring equipment placed by Ally and his team on top of the BT Tower in London has showed that emissions from cars have persistently been higher than estimates from motor manufacturers, including VW.

From gribble to stubble – After running a commercial fishing boat from the Isle of Wight and working in the boatyards of Southern California, Simon McQueen-Mason has spent most of his academic career developing ways to produce sustainable bio-replacements for petroleum in the fuel and chemical sectors.  One such alternative, fittingly, involves the gribble, a marine animal that eats holes in wooden boats. But he and his team at the Centre for Novel Agricultural Products are also making remarkable discoveries that could enable rice producers in South East Asia to transform the quality of air in their neighbourhoods and make a significant contribution to cutting global carbon emissions. The secret lies not only with the gribble, but also in the stubble.

Mathematics and the fight against viral infectionsReidun Twarock shows how the power of mathematical modeling came to the aid of biologists attempting to understand how viruses are constructed. Reidun, her multidisciplinary team and their collaborators at the Astbury Centre for Structural Molecular Biology - in particular Peter Stockley - have “initiated a paradigm shift in our understanding of virus assembly.” Their work opens up the possibility of novel strategies for antiviral therapy. This cutting edge research is revealing new insights into seemingly intractable problems and shows what can be achieved when different disciplines pool their talents.

A quantum leap for Yorkhaving served his time at the forefront of the information technology industry, Tim Spiller is ideally placed to help York play a leading role in the creation of the £120m national network of Quantum Technology Hubs. He will explain how the main focus of the York Hub will be on secure communications, with emphasis on Quantum Key Distribution - one of the first quantum information technologies with market potential. The Hub aims for breakthroughs in affordability and integration that will lead to widespread use of the technology, and will showcase a new kind of partnership between academic research and leading industrialists.

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