Thursday, 18 March 2010

An evening of fun science

I took part in 'An Evening of Fun Science' at Burford School (glad to see it shared the motto Sapere Aude with my old school) last night as part of the Oxfordshire Science Festival.

It was certainly a wide-ranging event. We started of with Mad Science, or rather a part of that franchise, with what was essentially a chemistry demonstration. There was much messing about with dry ice, most dramatically when the carbon dioxide/water vapour from a 'dry ice shower' was used to blow white marble-like soap bubbles, which burst in little clouds of vapour. Liquid nitrogen also got a look in, freezing a flower to the be crumbled. And a couple of hydrogen peroxide driven reactions provided a bit of drama. Technically their advertising 'a whizz-bang fun presentation full of explosive fun' was a little exaggerative, as there where no bangs or explosions - but it was entertaining nonetheless.

Second up was me, giving a practical session on memory, covering a little about how the brain stores memories, but mostly giving the audience a chance to try out techniques to give memory a boost, which seemed to go down well.

Finally came Mike Leahy, an interesting character who I spent most of the spare time chatting with. A science show presenter specializing in nasty creatures, Mike has allowed various insects and parasites to bite him and infect him for TV - and had graphic enough illustrations of the work of parasites and toxins on victims to turn the stomach of some of the audience. He kept things going with entertaining drama, and had the pre-teen boys practically begging to ask questions about various unpleasant experiences afterwards.

That pre-teen boys bit reflects the most diverse audience I've ever seen at a science event. Afterwards, seeing the brochure, I notice it was labelled as 7+ and this had been taken literally - the audience was 7 to 70, with plenty of tired young things by the time we finished our 3 hour marathon about 8.30.

Did they learn a huge amount? Probably not. But did they go away thinking science was worthwhile? I think so, and that can't be bad.

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