Research Talks

All members of Darwin are encouraged to present their research at informal seminars held on Tuesdays and Thursdays during term. Everyone is welcome, whatever your degree or discipline.

Darwin members pick up lunch from 12:00, taking it into the Richard King Room (on the left at the top of the stairs leading to the dining hall) or 1 Newnham Terrace (straight through at the far end of the dining hall). Wine is served. Non-Darwin members are welcome to attend, although lunch is only available to guests of members. The talk begins at about 1:15 and lasts for about 20 minutes and is followed by questions over coffee. We adjourn at 2:00pm at the latest.

Upcoming Talks

Darwin Lunchtime Talks will recommence next term and the schedule posted here.

Past Research Talks

Tuesday 22 May 2018
Dr Anthony Hotson (Centre for Financial History and Darwin College)

The global economy has recovered from the credit crunch of 2008, but the medicine prescribed by central bankers has left us with excessive debts and growing inequality. Proponents of tighter regulation remain fearful that initial intentions will be watered down, leaving the door open to speculative excesses and further market turmoil. Ten years on from the last crisis, our prospects do not look particularly promising. In my short talk, I shall describe two principles of sound banking practice, developed in the late nineteenth century, that helped to stabilise London’s money and credit markets. These principles informed a range of market practices that limited aggressive forms of funding and discouraged speculative lending. A tendency to downplay the importance of these regulatory practices encouraged a degree of complacency about their removal in the 1970s and 1980s. I shall argue that these principles need to be reapplied if the vulnerability of credit markets is to be addressed.

Thursday 17 May 2018
Mr Robert Hickman, Department of Physiology, Development, and Neuroscience, Univesity of Cambridge

Every action we make relies on us appropriately assigning value to different options. Such value signals have been found in the brain and are the key drivers of every single decision, from staying at DarBar for one last drink, to pursuing a PhD. However, neurons encode values subjectively, often in a manner that is not obviously related to the objective qualities of those rewards; a small, simple diamond may be worth as much as a house.

In this talk, I will explain how this has hindered our ability to decode these fundamental neuronal signals and present an auction task for the measurement of a monkey’s subjective values for rewards within individual decisions. By allowing for the association of behaviour and neuronal signals with unprecedented temporal precision, we may gain greater insight into the neuronal ‘black box’ which underlies the choices we make in everyday life.

Tuesday 15 May 2018
Christopher Day (Dept. of Land Economy)

"The ravages of two world wars and advantages attainable from a united Europe resulted in a continuous process of economic and political union in the half century following the Second World War. By the end of the 20th Century, this culminated in the establishment of the European Central Bank and Euro currency. Despite the enormous benefits associated with the formation of the European Monetary Union (EMU), critics of the EMU outlined numerous deficiencies which were rapidly brought to light during the 2010 European debt crisis. Furthermore, European cohesion policies seeking to balance economic growth, development and competitiveness across the European Union remain largely ineffectual given the fundamental structural inadequacies of the EMU which lacks fiscal federalism in the absence of a floating exchange rate mechanism. This dissertation seeks to identify the degree to which the EMU distorted currency values and determine whether these distortions are contributing to the spatial disparities in economic growth and development found across Europe with particular attention being paid to the North-South divide. It is argued that cohesion policy will continue to be undermined until the distortions in national competitiveness are fully addressed.

Thursday 10 May 2018
Dr William Alston, Institute of Astronomy, University of Cambridge

Black holes are the most extreme objects found in the universe. They provide a one-way passage to the unknown, places where our understanding of physics breaks down. Pioneering work over the last century has transformed black holes from theoretical curiosities, into the domain of the observational astronomer. These gravitational monsters reside in the centre of all galaxies in the universe, and are intimately linked to the formation and evolution of stars and galaxies we observe today. Despite their enormous size, our current telescopes are unable to spatially resolve them on the sky. We therefore resort to indirect methods to zoom in on the region directly around the black hole. In this talk, I will describe current efforts to spatially map the gas in the immediate vicinity of a black hole as it spirals down the deep gravitational potential well. These observations provide us with information about the two fundamental properties of black holes: their mass and spin.

Tuesday 8 May 2018
Prof David Catling (University of Washington)

In 1831, at the age of 22, Charles Darwin set off on a voyage around the world that lasted almost 5 years. What Darwin discovered foremost was the vastness of time and its dramatic cumulative effects in geology. After he returned, his theory of biological evolution arose with a parallel reliance on deep time. More recently, the specific biological and cultural worlds that Darwin visited have often vanished or changed dramatically since his voyage in ways that have remained poorly documented as a whole. On the other hand, some places – typically now in reserves or parks – contain landscapes exactly as Darwin described them, albeit with different scientific interpretations. For over 15 years, I have retraced Darwin's inland journeys in S. American countries, New Zealand, Australia, Mauritius, S. Africa, and numerous small islands (such as Cocos-Keeling, St. Helena, Ascension, Terceira, the Falklands, and the Galapagos) to write a book with the theme of time, including the “then and now” of Darwin’s voyage, some aspects of which I will share.

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