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4.4 A supermassive black hole

A black hole is a body so massive and so small that even electromagnetic radiation, such as visible light, cannot escape from it. It is its combination of small size and very strong gravitational field that makes it attractive as a key component of the engine that powers an AGN. There is good evidence of a black hole of mass 2.6 × 106M at the centre of the Milky Way. As you will see, it turns out that much more massive black holes are needed to explai
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4.2 The size of AGNs

AGNs appear point-like on optical images. It is instructive to work out how small a region these imaging observations indicate. Optical observations from the Earth suffer from ‘seeing’, the blurring of the image by atmospheric turbulence. The result is that star-like images are generally smeared by about 0.5 arcsec or more. One can do much better with the Hubble Space Telescope where, thanks to the lack of atmosphere, resolved images can be as small as 0.05 arcsec. What does this mean in
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4.1 Introduction: the active galactic nuclei (AGN)

From Section 3 you will have discovered that one thing all active galaxies have in common is a compact nucleus, the AGN, which is the source of their activity. In this section you will study the two properties of AGNs that make them so intriguing – their small size and high luminosity – and learn about the energy sou
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3.5 Blazars

Blazars appear star-like, as do quasars, but were only recognised as a distinct class of object in the 1970s. They are variable on timescales of days or less. All are strong and variable radio sources. There are two subclasses.

BL Lac objects are characterised by spectra in which emission lines are either absent or extremely weak. They lie at relatively low redshifts. At first, they were mistaken for variable stars until their spectra were studied. (Their name derives from BL Lac
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6.3 Some issues for consideration

DEMOCS offer a novel, and perhaps unique approach to public participation on contentious science issues. But how far is the process capable of dealing with the difficulties and uncertainties raised in the examples of engagement processes already considered in this unit, and what benefits might it bring? For example:

  1. How far is this process of group discussion likely to lead to outcomes that are representative of ‘public’ opinion?


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6.2 How DEMOCS works

DEMOCS games involve groups of around six to eight participants and take a couple of hours to play. They come as self-contained kits, which can be downloaded from nef's website. To register and log in for access to DEMOCS games, see http://www.neweconomics.org/gen/z_sys_DemocsRegister.aspx?destination=/gen/democsdownload.aspx, accessed 13 March 2007. Topics covered so far include stem cell research, over-the-counter genetic testing kits, xenotransplantation, pre-implantation genetic diagnosis
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3.5 Consensus conference on radioactive waste

A second UK national consensus conference was held in May 1999 as part of a wide-ranging public engagement process on managing radioactive waste safely. The remit of the citizens' panel (the term was adopted in preference to ‘lay panel’) was as follows:

The Consensus Conference is to focus on the effective and publicly acceptable long-term management of nuclear waste in the UK, both civil and military, concentr
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3.4 Consensus conference on plant biotechnology

The first UKNCC (at Regent's College) was hosted by the Science Museum and funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). The conference was based on a procedural model developed by the Danish Board of Technology. In Denmark, consensus conferences are held regularly and can be seen to have had unequivocal effects on policy making. Indeed, in a number of instances, Parliament has explicitly incorporated lay-panel recommendations in legislation. For example, lay-p
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3.2 Public consultation vs public engagement

‘Public consultation’ is not a new concept in policy making. For society to function effectively, laws and policies must have public support. It is desirable, therefore, to have some idea of what the public thinks about an issue before regulation is finalised. Consultation is based on establishing the nature of a socially collective view that we call ‘public opinion’. The main means of establishing public opinion with at least some degree of confidence is the opinion poll, the methodo
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1 How did the notion of public dialogue arise?

There is a good case to be made that the emphasis on ‘dialogue’ in relation to science and the public in the UK coincided with the publication in 2000 of the House of Lords report on Science and Society. But the impact of that report has to be seen in the context of what was happening under the ‘public understanding of science’ (PUS) banner in the years between the publication of the Bodmer report (1985) and the House of Lords report 15 years later.

In the UK, this period
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Learning outcomes

By the end of this unit you should:

  • have a greater awareness of science-based issues of public importance;

  • have greater insight into the phrase ‘the public understanding of science’

  • have a raised awareness of the ways in which the public can be consulted in relation to science policy issues;

  • be able to think of ways in which the public might in future become more engaged in decision-making about science that has social impact.


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Introduction

There are a wide range of different interactions between ‘science and the public’. Examples range from visiting a museum, or indulging in a science-related hobby, to reading a newspaper article about a breakthrough in the technique of therapeutic cloning, to attending a protest meeting about plans to build a waste disposal unit near to a residential area. Some such interactions are largely one-way; being a member of the audience for a ‘go-hear’ lecture, visiting a museum or‘‘liste
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9.3 Health

The leader must be informed of any problems of mental or physical health that may affect safety during field-work. This may include, for instance, information on diabetes, asthma or epilepsy; students should also inform the leader if they require extra assistance. All work handling living organisms, soil or water may give some risk of infection, and protection in the form of gloves, masks, etc., may need to be carried. Supervisors should give advice concerning particular health hazards that m
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7.5 Control measures

7.5.1 Control measures to avoid exposure

There are four main methods of exposure to chemicals:

  1. Inhalation – This is the main method of exposure to volatile solvents and gases.

  2. Skin absorption – Certain chemicals possess the ability to penetrate through pores of skin (for example, mercury compounds and hydr
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7.3 Disposal requirements

Figure 9
Figure 9 Disposal canister

When carrying out a risk assessment, you must consider disposal requirements. For example, any chemical d
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7.2 Information sources

7.2.1 How do I find the information required to carry out COSHH risk assessments?

The best source of information is the material safety data sheet (MSDS). By law (CHIP3) this should accompany any chemical that is purchased. However, if this is not available, or the chemical is old, then copies can be obtained from the manufacturer's website or information can sometimes be found in t
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7.1 Health problems associated with using chemicals

As described in Section 6.2, hazard is defined under COSHH as the inherently dangerous properties of a chemical or biological organism, and risk is defined as the likelihood of a chemical causing harm to people or to the environment.

There are several, more specific, known health problems associated with using chemicals.
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6.1 Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations

For those companies involved in the handling of chemicals and/or biological material there are a number of additional regulations. These are known as the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations. These were introduced in 1988, and the last update was in 1999. These regulations apply to chemicals, biological hazards and dusts.

The essential requirements are that the employer must:

  • make an assessment of the health risk to empl
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5.2 Cryogenic liquids and ionising radiation safety

5.2.1 Cryogenic liquids

There are a number of hazards associated with cryogenic liquids, the main one being that when accidentally released the liquid expands hugely to form a gas (600 times in the case of nitrogen). The formation of such a large volume of gas can lead to asphyxiation in confined areas.

The other main hazard is cold burns (frostbite).

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5.1 Basic do's and don'ts and lone working

Some basic ‘do's and don'ts’ are:

  • Laboratory coats must be worn at all times.

  • When handling chemicals or sharps (any sharp object that can cause injury, particularly to the hands), observe good laboratory practice by wearing gloves. Latex or nitrile gloves are best, depending on the application.

  • There should be no eating, chewing gum, drinking, smoking or applying cosmetics in any laboratory.

  • No p
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