The Royal Society — an independent scientific academy dedicated to promoting science

Located in the heart of London, right next to the Buckingham Palace, The Royal Society has been based at the same fabulous location since 1967. The society started from groups of physicians and natural philosophers, meeting at a variety of locations in London. They were influenced by the "new science", as promoted by Francis Bacon and The Royal Society was founded at the Gresham College in London on 28 November 1660. Some of the most famous Fellows of The Royal Society are Isaac Newton, Stephen Hawking and David Attenborough.

Summer Science Exhibition

Once a year they celebrate the cutting edge of UK science during a free, one week-long festival. With a packed programme of thought-provoking talks, jaw-dropping demonstrations and entertaining performances alongside 22 exhibits of hands-on science and technology, it is an exciting and educational experience for all ages. The exhibition provides a great opportunity to talk directly to scientists to understand more about their work and how it is helping shape our society.

This year, from 1 -7 July, we could explore what it would be like to live on the Moon, discover why we get breathless, learn the benefits of complete isolation and find out how maths can help us unlock new treatments for cancer. Exhibitors from the most prestigious universities of the world showcased a wide variety of their current research and delved their audience into some of the fascinating history which led to modern day science and technology.

The Mathematics of Cancer

Tumours are a group of abnormal cells that invade and grow into nearby tissues. Like healthy cells, cancerous cells require oxygen and nutrients to survive. Cancer is difficult to treat, because each tumour is unique, just like a fingerprint. Anti-cancer drugs can be delivered to a tumour by their chaotic, interconnected network of blood vessels. These unique networks mean that no one treatment works effectively for everyone. Furthermore, current clinical imaging methods are unable to make accurate predictions regarding treatment success.

At University College London, a team of scientists and engineers have combined advanced biomedical imaging techniques with computational modelling through a unified framework. It allows them to build 3D virtual tumours to perform computational experiments in order to study the transport of blood, biological fluids and drugs within tumours. Virtual tumours allow them to test the effectiveness of new cancer drugs and treatment strategies on a wide range of cancer types. They aim to enable patients to receive a more personalised therapy, tailored to individual tumours, reducing side effects of chemotherapy and making treatment more effective.

Art of isolation

Physicists of the Lancaster University created a building that houses one of the quietest laboratories in the world. It enables them to test how the removal of noise allows the development of brand new technology. Isolation from vibrations, light and electromagnetic radiation enables researchers to perform incredibly sensitive experiments. In this special laboratory they are able to reach some of the coldest temperatures in the Universe, removing the agitating effects of thermal noise. This let them probe the quantum properties of matter.

Nanoscale microscopy - they study materials at the atomic and nano scale. Using microscopes to image single atoms and molecules, they explore the limits of assembling materials one atom at a time, and how they can be used for catalysis, computing and energy recovery.

Quantum optics - they explore the quantum-mechanical behaviour of light, and its interaction with optical devices and materials.

A recipe for primordial life

The origin of life is among the greatest unsolved mysteries in science. A group of scientist at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge has been using increased understanding of evolution to design new synthetic biologies. The prevailing theory in origins of life research is that pools containing mixtures of simple molecules, known as “primordial soup”, with various energy inputs, spawned sets of building blocks that were able to replicate and self-assemble, eventually leading to a primitive biology. The first land on Earth was probably volcanic, forming island arcs in a vast ocean. Springs, ponds, or lakes in volcanic regions were likely environments for jump-starting life.

For life as we know it to emerge, RNA and peptide / protein molecules are necessary. Through a process of evolution, protocells containing more advantageous combinations of RNA and protein molecules would produce more copies of themselves and over time, these protocells would have gained more abilities that allowed them to spread life across Earth. Since they don’t know what the first protocells looked like or what they contained, scientists try to recreate different possibilities in the lab to find out. A successful protocell should have the capacity to carry out 3 basic functions: making more of the required building blocks (such as Amino acids, Lipids and Nucleotides), copying its functional RNA and protein molecules, and dividing in two to produce two new protocell bubbles. Researchers of the Holliger Lab are studying self-replicating ribozymes for their synthetic utility and relevance to the origin of life.