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Imperial College London celebrates 100th anniversary and 1st

The Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine was established one hundred years ago as a merger of the Royal College of Science, the City and Guilds College and the Royal School of Mines. Ranked fourth in the world for engineering, technology and biomedicine by THES, Imperial has 120,000 alumni worldwide.

2007 also marks the year when Imperial College, formerly a constituent part of the University of London, withdrew from the University of London and, on 8 July, became completely independent. With Cambridge and Oxford, Imperial forms the Golden Triangle of leading UK research universities.

Recent Imperial projects reveal the geologically informative, the medically useful and the mechanically charming.

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Megaflood

Yesterday Dr Sanjeev Gupta and Dr Jenny Collier of Imperial College published research and “spectacular images” in the journal Nature describing the megaflood that separated Britain from France hundreds of thousands of years ago.

“Using high-resolution sonar waves the team captured images of a perfectly preserved submerged world in the channel basin. The maps highlight deep scour marks and landforms which were created by torrents of water rushing over the exposed channel basin. . .carving a massive valley.

“At its peak, it is believed that the megaflood could have lasted several months, discharging an estimated one million cubic metres of water per second. This flow was one of the largest recorded megafloods in history and could have occurred 450,000 to 200,000 years ago.” It was caused when the chalk ridge spanning the Dover Straits was breached by a massive lake fed by the Rhine and Thames rivers.

It is hard to resist observing that a cataclysm that put a decent stretch of water between Britain and Europe was all to the good.

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Anaesthetics without side effects

Biophysics professor Nick Franks and his Imperial research group have just published new findings about “a particular protein found in neurons in the brain, known as a potassium channel, which stabilises and regulates the voltage across the membrane of the neuron. Communication between the millions of neurons in the brain – which is the basis of human consciousness and perception, including perception of pain - involves neurons sending nerve impulses to other neurons. In order for this to happen, the stabilising action of the potassium channel has to be overcome."

The information is crucial to developing anaesthetics with fewer side effects. Their report appears in the 20 July issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

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Mechanical charm

Jezebel, a 1916 Dennis Fire Engine, and Boanerges, a 1902 James Browne
, brought back prizes from the Uxbridge Autoshow on Sunday after Imperial students and recent graduates repaired and refurbished them.

In the case of Jez, students had to reassemble vital transmission components and polish her 55 square feet of brass. Enthusiastic spectators voted the prizes at the Rotary Show, which raises money for charity.

Teamwork appears to be very strong at Imperial. Cheers!

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