Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Tribute to my father, Prof E J Duke

As part of a series of tributes to my father, Professor Edward J Duke (Head of the Department of Zoology UCD , 1979 to 2002) , who passed away last month, I’m putting up his first significant scientific publication here.

He achieved so much in his life, and science was only one small part of that.

Yet, this might be of interest to those who knew ‘Eamonn’ in his professional capacity as a scientist. It was published as part of the ‘Letters to Nature’ on the 9th January 1963, when he was just 23 years of age, and a doctoral student in Queen’s University Belfast.

Thank you to Kay Nolan and Tom Bolger, former UCD colleagues for finding this for me.

The Pulsar Superstar – Jocelyn Bell Burnell

Listen to the story of Jocelyn Bell Burnell broadcast on East Coast FM as part of the Irish Scientists series in December 2016

Science Spinning

Listen below to the story of Jocelyn Bell Burnell as part of the Irish Scientists series which was broadcast on East Coast FM in December 2016

Jocelyn BB Pic Jocelyn Bell Burnell from Lurgan Co. Armagh discovered a new type of star, called pulsars in the 1960s

Jocelyn Bell Burnell, pictured on the right, who grew up and was educated in Lurgan, discovered pulsars, a new family of incredibly compact tiny stars back in 1968. It was a discovery that many astronomers believed merited a Nobel Prize. The Nobel Committee agreed and a Prize was duly awarded for the discovery in 1974. The problem was the Prize went not to Jocelyn, but to her supervisor.

At the time she made the discovery, 67-year-old Jocelyn (who is still an active researcher) was a 24-year old post-graduate student. She was also a woman. Those things still mattered in science in the 1960s, and might have…

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Robert Mallet – the earthquake detective

Science Spinning

The first photographs ever taken of the aftermath of an earthquake were taken of the Great Neopolitan Quake of 1857, which destroyed the village of Pertosa, pictured here, and many other towns and villages in southern Italy. The pictures were taken by a Frenchman called Grellier, and commissioned by Irish scientist and Dubliner Robert Mallet who was the first to determine what caused earthquakes such as this one [Credit: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies].

Listen here to the story of Robert Mallet

First broadcast on East Coast FM in December 2017 as part of the Irish Scientists series produced by Red Hare Media.

The science of seismology, which studies the power and energy unleashed by earthquakes, began life on a south Dublin beach in 1849 with an ingenious experiment carried out by one of Ireland’s greatest scientists. That scientist was Robert Mallett – a Dubliner widely recognized as the ‘father…

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The Atom Splitter: Ernest Walton

ETS Walton featured on Irish scientists, the six part series on East Coast FM, presented by myself, Sean Duke, and produced by Colette Kinsella, Red Hare Media

Science Spinning

Broadcast on East Coast FM on 03-12-2016 as part of a six-part series on Irish scientists, produced by Colette Kinsella, Red Hare Media, and funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland.

walton ETS Walton, the Irishman who split the atom in 1932 at the age of 29

In 1932, aged 29, Waterford-born Ernest Walton, pictured here on the right, did something remarkable – he split the atom, or the atomic nucleus to be more precise, and the news stunned the world.

This colossal event in the history of science took place in Cambridge, UK, in the Cavendish Laboratory, a world-famous laboratory run by Lord Ernest Rutherford, a New Zealander. Rutherford had won a Nobel Prize for physics in 1908 and was a huge figure in science in general and nuclear physics in particular.
Walton, meanwhile, was a brilliant apparatus man, a hands-on physicist, and he had personally built the particle…

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ERC-funded memory researcher returns from US to set up lab in TCD

This article was published in The Sunday Times (Ireland) on 11-09-2016



Silicon chip could be replaced by material made in Cork


Silicon chips, like the one pictured here, could in future be made not from silicon, but from a new alloy material made by a UCC research group (Source: Wiki)

The silicon chip — the tiny synthetic “brain” inside smartphones, laptops and electronic devices — could eventually be replaced by a material made in Cork.The substance, a mixture of tin and germanium, should allow faster, less power-sapping electronic devices. In the short term it could be used to make “wearable” solar cells to power phones or tablets.

The innovation has been announced by Professor Justin Holmes, a scientific investigator at the Advanced Materials and BioEngineering Research Centre and professor of nanochemistry at University College Cork.

The tin-germanium mixture has been used by Holmes and his team to make tiny electricity-conducting wires, called nanowires. These control the electrical flow in devices, as silicon does, but use less power.

Low-power electronics could mean that mobile phones need to be charged less often, Holmes said, and could open the way for solar-powered mobile phones.

“Improved power efficiency means increased battery life for mobile devices, which ultimately leads to lower greenhouse gas emissions,” he said. “The charging of mobile electronic devices currently accounts for 15% of all household electricity consumption.”

This research has been funded jointly by Science Foundation Ireland, a government body that uses public money to support research, and IQE, a British company that produces materials for mobile phones and other electronic products.
The creation could challenge the dominance of silicon chips. Silicon, a component of sand, is a cheap and abundant material. Because of its ubiquity and its power to control electricity, it was used in the first chip made at the Texas Instruments lab in 1958.
As computers’ processing speeds have increased, manufacturers have packed more transistors onto every chip. Intel’s 4004 chip, made in 1971, had 2,300 transistors, while a chip the company makes now has 7.2bn.

The technical problem with having billions of transistors in a single silicon switch is that the amount of heat generated has shortened battery life and can lead to overheating.

This prompted scientists including Holmes to look at different materials that could be used in chips. IQE said it hopes the Irish-made material will make silicon chips faster and reduce their power consumption.

“The ability to increase the speed and number of devices on a chip by reducing size is coming to an end. Novel ideas such as nanowires will allow the microelectronics revolution to continue,” it said.

 This article was first published by The Sunday Times (Irish edition) on 21/08/2016.  Click here to view.



Easter Rising, Science Falling

John Tyndall of Leighlinbridge Co Carlow, pictured here was the first to explain why the sky is blue and to discover 'greenhouse gases' in the Earth's atmosphere (Credit: Wikipedia)

John Tyndall of Leighlinbridge Co Carlow, pictured here was the first to explain why the sky is blue and to discover ‘greenhouse gases’ in the Earth’s atmosphere. He was a Protestant Unionist, hostile to Irish nationalism (Credit: Wikipedia)

The Easter Rising heralded in the modern Irish nation, but Irish science post 1916-22 went into a period of steep decline after the achievements of scientists here in the 19th century.

The reasons had to do with the educational policy of the Irish state post 1922, which put its resources into teaching Irish, and the fact that many of the pillars of Irish scientific achievement, like John Tyndall, were regarded as hostile to the nationalist cause.

To hear more come along to my talk on Easter Monday in Dublin, as part of the RTE Reflecting the Rising series of talks. Booking is required.

Click HERE for more information

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