u3a logo

Return to Home Page

U3A Technology and Society Network Seminar: Abergavenny 2012.


Merely 108 miles from Salisbury, Abergavenny in Wales has been the favoured location for the seminar for the last eight years. We enjoyed joining about 50 like-minded people to hear 11 lectures on a variety of topics. Had I known that I would be asked for a report I might have taken notes!

To give you more information about the stimulating topics I’ll briefly summarise some of them:

1. Frank Wood from Maghull (7 miles north of Liverpool) talked about the Apollo Space Programme. The Soviets built Sputnik I in 1957 which had its own orbit around the Earth. Then President Kennedy sponsored the Apollo Programme of Manned Space Flight in 1961. In July 1969 Apollo XI was commanded by Neil Armstrong (the first man to walk on the Moon) with Buzz Aldrin (the second).

2. Alex Paterson from Aylesbury, who is designing a comfortable seat explained his research and development process. One patent will have come through by now. He has used equipment at Stoke Mandeville Hospital to research how a person’s weight is distributed on their buttocks and thighs when they sit down. Sitting for a long time, such as when in a wheel chair, can result in pressure sores. Even when treated in the early stages these can be very difficult to cure and in the worst cases they can penetrate the epidermis, dermis and muscle tissue right down to the bone. His most recent seat is created from continuously woven seatbelt strapping which moves over spools and moulds to distribute the users weight evenly thus helping to combat this problem.

3. Susan Slater from Rugby talked about the technical reasons why the trade route, the Silk Road arose, while

4. Derek Bissel (from the Abergavenny home team) spoke on Dr. Johnson and Science of his Age.

5. One lecture which gripped me was delivered by John Marriage from Lyme Regis on the Camera Obscura and Pinhole Camera. This involves a darkened chamber or box to which light is admitted through a very small round hole and casts a detailed image (not just an outline) on an opaque surface or film. Although it was a dull day, he set up several “cameras”. One was a box that was approximately a cubic foot and another one near us was a syrup tin with a pinhole in it. After 8 hours the latter showed a detailed image of the window and one particular person who must have sat in the same place for most of the time! I was impressed that the sun shining through leaves on a tree is projected onto the ground in many overlapping circular images.

6. Jo Livingstone (from Bexley) talked about Prosopagnosia (face blindness). This can be caused by a deficit in the brain that cannot be altered or influenced. About 1 in 50 people have the condition severely enough to cause real problems in dealing with other people in their daily life. An example of this is a mother who could not recognise her two children. To pick them up from school she had to be allowed to drive to the school gate and let them get into the car because finding them in the playground among other children was impossible for her. The internet has made it possible for people all over the world to share their experiences and ways of solving these kinds of challenges.

7. Peter Read (a member of Spire U3A Salisbury group who many of you will have heard before) gave a talk on Rainbows. Colours in a primary rainbow are reversed in the secondary one. The area between the primary and secondary rainbow is darker, known as Alexander’s dark band. In the primary rainbow the sun’s light is refracted twice and there is one reflection in the spherical raindrops. In the secondary rainbow the light is refracted twice, but also reflected twice. A rainbow is not reflected in water.

8. Glyn Wainwright from north-west of Leeds talked on Sugar Damaged Proteins. Glyn chose not to take statins, to reduce his cholesterol levels when his doctor had initially recommended them, because he was concerned about their possible side effects. He concentrated on dieting for three weeks which considerably reduced the need for statins. After a further three weeks his doctor agreed that statins were no longer necessary. Accumulation of advanced glycation endproducts have also been implicated in the progression of age–related diseases such as Alzheimers, stroke, cataracts, reduced muscle function, arthritis and cardiovascular disease. Glyn recommended eating less than 100g carbohydrates per day and getting energy from fats and proteins which helps to reduce the hyperglycemic bounce (an excess of glucose in the blood after meals). His diet advocated proteins with some fat and rice, but little potatoes, bread, flour, grapes, parsnips and swedes. He recommended carrots and green vegetables (as much lettuce as you like), poultry, plenty of eggs, fish, apples and some cheese and full-fat dairy products. Occasionally dark chocolate is allowed. When eating protein, carbohydrate molecules can link into the protein molecule and take the place of digestive enzymes, so making it difficult to digest the protein. A diabetic may have more than 60 damaged molecules per thousand – while people can be healthy if they have less than 48 per thousand damaged. He advocates avoiding refined sugars – confectionary, processed foods and low fat foods (many having high amounts of fructose corn syrup). For more detail visit Glyn’s website HERE and/or HERE.

9. Other lectures were on Fractal Art by David Walter (a curve or geometrical figure, each part of which has the same statistical character as the whole), the computer having enabled this to develop; “Do My Eyes Deceive Me?” and finally

10. “The Development of Paper Mills”.

Lecturers and the audience members came from far and wide.

11. A day trip to the Rhondda Heritage Park near Pontypridd gave an insight into mining- though I am told Big Pit near Blaenavon is more down to earth and kids love to get muddy down that pit.
Why don’t you sign up when next year’s seminar is advertised? It was a thoroughly enjoyable three days and the noise level steadily increased as we all talked between lectures. Costs will increase next year – possibly to £350 including the accommodation, as U3A has had to move from the usual venue in Abergavenny. Have a lo0ok at the photos of the visit HERE

Muriel Laptain - Spire U3A

Return to Home Page