Another night of nudity and cling film at the x-change



As host Sue Nelson puts it, if the British Science Festival were a pub crawl, the x-change would be concentrated jello shots. Tuesday’s event saw five of the best speakers condensed into one hour and fifteen minutes.  Our guest blogger today is Nerys Shah.

First up was Antarctic Meteorologist, Dr Tamsin Gray who brought her friend Bob the penguin on his summer hols in Guildford. She ran a workshop for children to design Antarctic bases and the kids came up with monster truck wheels to keep it out of snow and buildings that are also boats! Tamsin also taught us how cold it needs to be for your tongue to stick to a metal pole and that hard cheeses like cheddar do not defrost well.

Next was Dr Alex Murphy, an expert in dark matter. Alex told us that dark matter particles haven’t been found yet because detectors are not sensitive enough, but with technological advances being made, we should have the tools to detect dark matter within the next 2-5 years. Expect big headlines when that happens (or embarrassed theorists if it doesn’t!)

Dr Ted Nield discussed C P Snow’s two cultures – scientific and literary minds. The audience got involved debating if this is still relevant and complaining that the literary types do not embrace science. Ted pointed out that the arts exist to be appealing and entertaining; science does not and he ended on an interesting statistic: in the UK more people are members of badminton clubs than have a science degree! Ted’s message? Scientists: get out more.

Palaeontologist Dr Maria McNamara told us about her unusual approach – she doesn’t look for fossils, she makes them. Maria watches birds decay in the lab and found that her birds (unlike fossils) were not losing their wings – a mat of bacteria and fungi were forming around the bodies. Maria demonstrated this with a volunteer from the audience – Susanna Fleming – and a roll of cling film. When wrapped up Maria asked Susanna how easy it would be for her wings to fall off, “rather difficult” was the reply…

We discovered that Sue has met our final speaker, Professor John Lucas, before but has only seen him naked – they go to the same swimming pool! John moved swiftly on with the arms race between agriculture and pests. An audience member suggested that disposing of one pest would leave the niche open for another. John agreed that this was certainly possible and a reason the arms race continues.

In addition to our speakers, we again had lively two-minute segments from four ‘perspectives’ students on pesticides, marine viruses, Humber estuary management and designing lasers.

Join us tonight from 6.15 for more ‘jello shots’ of science. The best of the festival will be at Chancellors Bar.

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