September 8th, 2012
The fifth and final x-change show went out with a bang today at the 2012 British Science Festival in Aberdeen. Our Saturday Demo Spectacular! was fast paced and full of energy: we had record attempts, smoking jelly babies, sustainable electricity and human-powered fans, all squeezed into an hour long show.
To start us off, we had Debbie Syrop from Science Made Simple with a record attempt to fit the entire audience into a cereal box. Yes, a Shredded Wheat cereal box. There was no magic involved, only maths and engineering. Increasing the length of the box by cutting it into a long thin string allowed us to get our entire audience in.
Andrea Sella, a chemist from UCL then showed us how mercury would oscillate when put in contact with a paper clip. He started a chemical reaction between the steel in the paperclip and the mercury, causing it to vibrate. It's as if it was alive!
Energy cannot be created or destroyed, only recycled and reused in different forms. To demonstrate this, we had Greg Foot, one half of the Science Junkies, Rob Wix from Sustainable Science and Jamie Gallagher from Glasgow University. Greg started off by demonstrating how much energy there is in a jelly baby by setting it alight and how we use this energy to power our bodies.
Greg Foot getting the energy from a jelly baby!
Rob then used Julie as a guinea-pig to power lights, a fan and a kettle using a bicycle. Julie used the joules of energy from her breakfast to get her legs to turn the wheels of the bike. This powered a generator which then turned on the electrical devices.
Jamie then finished this set off by using kilo-Jules (get it?) of energy to power a small fan. The heat Julie was giving off after getting on the bike was combined with the coolness of ice to set up a current in the semi-conductor materials which powered the fan.
We were also presenting the Strictly Engineering prizes at the show today. Strictly Engineering was a poster competition held at the Festival in which engineers made a poster about their area of research. They worked together with the Science in Society team and professional graphic designers. The winner of the competition was Isobel Houghton, and the runners up were Natasha Watson and Rosanna Kleemann.
Greg Foot then bounced back into action wearing his version of running blades. Although not as fast as Oscar Pistorius, he did explain the science behind the blades and why Pistorius was allowed to compete at the Olympics.
Neuro- and Naked Scientist Hannah Critchlow shocked our show to a close. Using Marcus as a volunteer, she electrocuted him to demonstrate that our bodies and brain run on electrical energy to power our limbs.
Thank you to all our guests for today's Demo Spectacular!
No podcast will be available for this highly visual show, but we will be putting a video up instead – watch this space!
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September 7th, 2012
Day four of the x-change and it was another fab show. There was a distinct food theme in this show with cheese, cocktails and…erm…cannibalism. The show kicked off with two thirds of SpaceDogs, Sarah Angliss and Stephen Hiscock. They performed a spooky number which combined a theramin, cow bells and robotics.
After learning how the theramin works, we moved onto Dwarf Elephants with Tori Herridge who gave the Charles Lyell award lecture here at the festival. We saw some fossils from these miniature mammals that have evolved on several different islands at different points through time. My favourite new fact; 10,000 years ago Cyprus had mini-elephants and hippos the size of dogs.
We then heard from Sarah Castor-Perry on the surprising science of cheese. Ever wondered why pongy feet smell like cheese? It turns out the bacteria that grow in strong cheeses also grow well in warm moist, salty places just like a sweaty foot. Nice. Sarah also brought along some instant cheese - next time you want cheese and can’t be bothered to go to the shop all you need is milk, vinegar, salt and a microwave.
James Soper entertained us with the unusual mix of science and circus. After some very impressive juggling he showed us how to balance juggling pins like a pro – apparently it’s all about the centre of mass. Richard learned to balance a feather on his head (after the juggling pin nearly knocked him out) and showed there’s more than one use for a power drill!
We were then treated to a unique insight into the rather funny world of Andrew Pontzen and Tom Whyntie, who bickered about the ominously named dark matter. We heard that if you want to find dark matter all you have do is wait a long time down a mine in Yorkshire. Alternatively you can use a gamma ray telescope and look at the centre of the galaxy. Obviously both options are equally glamorous.
Sue Bird and Jenny Downs from the University of Aberdeen Museum very kindly brought along some 200 year-old forks thought to be used by cannibals. The macabre objects are part of the Food Stories exhibition and originate from Fiji. It’s still up for debate whether the forks were used in this grim way or it’s a fabrication imagined by the cannibal obsessed Victorians.
Finally we finished off with Noel Jackson mixing up some cocktails for us. We explored the 5 rules to making a nice tasting drink and gave Noel a ready steady cook-like challenge. We presented him with various juices, vodka, lemons, limes and tinned strawberries and with the help of the audience Noel produced a tropical cocktail with a strawberry twist. During this transformation of ingredients we learned about the science of how we taste and the appeal of bitter flavours.
The show today had a distinctly food related theme so we set twitter and our live audience the challenge of telling us their dream scientist dinner party guest, dead or alive. We had some amazing suggestions you can see here. Please add to them on twitter (@TheSiSTeam #thexchange).
We’re now putting the finishing touches to the prep for tomorrow’s show, which is going to be a science demo extravaganza! With all the exciting things happening on stage tomorrow’s show is going to be filmed so those of you who aren’t in Aberdeen won’t miss out. Those who are, swing by - it’s going to be a fantastic show.
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September 7th, 2012
Here it is! The final x-change podcast of 2012 - straight from the Spiegeltent to your ears (via the internet).
Featuring: juggling, cocktails and dark matter (not all at once).
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