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Galactic stars to beetle shells, the universe is explored in two upcoming Science in Society Speakers Series in Vernon
Okanagan College Media Release

Exploring Earth’s smallest yet most beautiful particles to the sparkling farthest reaches of space, the Science in Society Speakers Dr. Geraldine Peters Mar 2015Series concludes with two talks that span the gamut of matter in our universe.

On Thursday March 26, American astrophysicist Dr. Geraldine J. Peters will speak about marvelous binary stars and on Thursday April 2, nano-materials scientist Dr. Mark MacLachlan will discuss how colourful bugs are inspiring new materials. Both events will be held at the Okanagan College Vernon campus lecture theatre at 7:30 p.m. 

Distinguished astrophysicist Dr. Peters from the University of Southern California will transport the audience to the dynamic realms of space as she discusses key advancements in understanding the inter-relationship of binary stars. These are two stars that operate in a system where they orbit around their own common centre of mass. 

In her research, facilitated by significant NASA grants, Peters utilizes spectra data including from the Hubble Space Telescope to explore the transfer of material between these co-related stars that result in spectacular interactions. The presentation will illustrate extraordinary bi-polar jet streams and splashes of hot mass transfer from one star to the surface of the other.

The talk titled “Close binary stars: what spacecraft observations have revealed about their interactions” is sponsored by the American Astronomical Society as part of the Harlow Shapely Visiting Lectureship program. The March 26 event is free for the public (donations accepted). 

Dr. Mark MacLachlan Mar 2015Returning to earthly matters, Dr. MacLachlan, Chemistry professor at the University of British Columbia, dives into the beautiful world of how plants and animals uniquely amazing characteristics inspire scientists in their pursuit to create new materials with improved strength, durability, and elasticity with his talk titled “Bug shells and butterfly wings: can nature inspire the creation of new materials?

Imagine a form of glass that reflects light similarly to a beetle’s shell. In his research of materials one-thousandth of the width of a hair, which the eye can only see using an electron microscope, Dr. MacLachlan and his team have developed glass and similar materials using the same spiral structure the beetle possesses.

Admission to the April 2 event is $7 in advance or $10 at the door. For advanced tickets, please call the Okanagan Science Centre at (250) 545-3644 and visit for more information

“We strive to present a diverse range of speakers to suit a multitude of interests in science for the public to enjoy,” says Okanagan College Chemistry professor Carl Doige, who helps coordinates the series along with the Okanagan Science Centre. “The range of expertise demonstrates how science is applicable within so many aspects of our society. This year we explored themes in sports performance, building materials, protecting the wildlife that are vital to our ecosystems, and even what we ponder when we gaze at the stars.”

This year’s speakers, in addition to Dr. Peters and Dr. McLachlan, captured the science in our midst with presentations by award-winning wildlife photographer Ian McAllister, CBC’s Quirks & Quarks host Bob McDonald, and neuroscientist Dr. Paul van Donkelaar.

The Science in Society Speaker Series is proudly sponsored by the Best Western Vernon Lodge, Cooper’s Food, Starbucks Coffee, and the Vernon Morning Star.