At-Bristol Science Centre

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Do try this at home: How to bake a cake, with science!

Blogging science to life

Fri 10 October 2014,

What happens if you miss a vital ingredient out of a cake?  Why is the egg so important?  What does baking powder actually do?  Join Nerys and David of the Live Science Team as they investigate the chemistry of cakes & show you a tasty experiment to try in your own laboratory/kitchen!

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Do try this at home: How to make bread, with science!

Blogging science to life

Fri 10 October 2014,

What is gluten? How does yeast help dough to rise? Heather and Joel of the Live Science Team show you how to make bread in this tasty experiment to try at home!

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The top five ways to celebrate World Space Week…

Blogging science to life

Mon 6 October 2014, Lee Pullen, At-Bristol's Planetarium Officer

The top five ways to celebrate World Space Week…
…according to Lee, At-Bristol’s Planetarium Officer.

SPACE! If there’s any topic that deserves its own International Week, this is it. Fortunately the United Nations agree, and since 1999 every 4th – 10th October has been World Space Week. Here are some suggestions for how you can celebrate this year.

 

5. Follow space news
We live in a golden age of space exploration. Even as you read this we have robots exploring Mars, a satellite orbiting a comet, and a probe closing in on Pluto. And these are just the first three that spring to mind. Never before have we had so many active space missions, and thanks to the internet it’s easier than ever to find out about them. To keep track of the latest developments, head over to the website Portal to the Universe. This collects together press releases and blog posts from major space agencies and research centres, all in one convenient location. For younger audiences, Space Scoop takes some of these stories and rewrites them in simple language, whilst keeping much of the detail.

Portal to the Universe

4. Help professional astronomers
It’s often said that astronomy is one of the few sciences in which amateurs can make a real discovery. This is very true, as the citizen science project Zooniverse is proving. Astronomers need the public’s help to find exoplanets; understand galaxy evolution; discover new features on the Moon; and much much more. You don’t need any science qualifications to help with these projects as short tutorials get you started. Over 1 million people worldwide are already involved, so why not join them this World Space Week! (If you discover something good, be sure to name it after me. Thanks).

Zooniverse

3. Join an astronomy group
In Bristol we’re lucky to have an active group of friendly hobby stargazers: the Bristol Astronomical Society. They have regular observing sessions, lectures, and special events. They meet at Bristol Grammar School (just off Park Street) on Friday evenings and are always keen to welcome beginners. Another idea is to join an online group. The Stargazers Lounge is vibrant forum filled with astro-experts happy to answer questions of any level about practical astronomy, from “which telescope is best for me?” to “what’s the quantum efficiency of a QHY5L-II planetary / guide camera, mono version?”*

Bristol Astronomical Society

2. Visit a Planetarium
Well, this was bound to make the shortlist! Seeing a Planetarium show is a great way to celebrate World Space Week. Obviously At-Bristol’s Planetarium is one everyone should visit! We have a fantastic team of presenters that guide audiences around the night sky, pointing out constellations, showing deep sky objects, and explaining ancient legends behind the stars. If you’re not local to Bristol then use this interactive map to find a Planetarium near you.

At-Bristol's Planetarium

Image courtesy of Lee Pullen, At-Bristol. 

1. Go stargazing!
Of course, the best way to celebrate World Space Week is to go stargazing. Download a free Night Sky Guide from the bottom of this webpage and head out under the night sky. You don’t need any special equipment to spot constellations, meteors, satellites and planets. The more you look the more you’ll see. Stellarium is a free computer program to help you navigate and is highly recommended. If you have binoculars or a small telescope then the book Turn Left at Orion is invaluable. Pro tip: get the spiral bound edition as that’s much easier to use when you’re out stargazing.

Unfortunately in this country the weather is often against us. To help plan observing times there’s a brilliant website called Clear Outside designed for amateur astronomers. It gives an hour-by-hour prediction of cloud cover, and includes handy features such as the timings of International Space Station passes.

If you really want to stretch yourself, try taking some photos of the stars. You only need three things: a DSLR camera, tripod, and some clear skies. Oh, and this handy instructional video may help too: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cPy79aWKOQQ&list=PL_hfIyUEz11yYIQxjPVGUPikf7eDK90hs

That’s just a small selection of ideas to celebrate World Space Week. Try as many as you can, because space is completely and utterly amazing. You know it’s true.


Many thanks to Lee for writing this blog, if you'd like to know more about World Space Week, check out their website here!

 

* The answer is 74%, in case you were wondering.

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Urban allotment update

Blogging science to life

Thu 25 September 2014, Sara Venn, Incredible Edible Bristol

As the penultimate planter goes in this week, we catch up with Incredible Edible Bristol head honcho Sara Venn to get the low down on the urban allotment project.

 

When Incredible Edible Bristol was asked to collaborate with At-Bristol and Almondsbury Garden Centre to change the use of the beds in Bristol’s Millennium Square from ornamental and failing to edible and exciting, we jumped at the offer. The aim of Incredible Edible Bristol is to empower communities to get together and grow food in unloved and unusual spaces and the idea that we could help put something together that might help to inspire people to do this was perfect. We were also very excited to be working alongside the new Food! exhibition at At-Bristol, as we are working with many schools that we expect will visit the exhibition and the space over the next three years.

Millennium Square planters

The concept of all the beds is not just to make beautiful beds of edibles, but is also to show people that a small area can be really productive and also really beautiful. Rows of lettuces, alternating red and green, squashes climbing up tripods of bamboo canes, and rows of chard are all part of what has been planted so far, and all look stunning as well as being delicious to pick and eat.

Each bed also has fruit trees in it, to produce apples and pears which, as they grow, will offer shade to those sitting underneath them. The fruit trees have been carefully chosen to ensure that they will cope well with being in containers, and so are on medium sized and small rootstocks that will keep them at a manageable size.

Millennium Square planters

Incredible Edible Bristol’s role has been to help design and choose the plants for the beds and then to help plant the beds by using our core team alongside our volunteers. This has seen all age groups take part in planting the beds, from the age of 2 upwards and means that the beds have ownership by the people of the city. We have had people join us from Lockleaze, Bedminster, St Paul’s, Horfield and more and each and every person has had a great time and tells me they regularly pop by the beds to see how they are doing. For us this shows that growing food gives communities ownership of a space which is a very powerful thing.

Going into the future the beds will be managed as any food garden would. We will harvest and replant seasonally, spend much time fighting off pests and diseases, water, prune and weed. Going into next year, as we begin the new growing season, we will be making sure the beds all have a specific theme, so one may end up as a 3 sisters bed, one may all be perennials and one may be an old fashioned allotment space.

Millennium Square planters

What all the beds will have in common is that we are growing food in the community, with the community, for the community, so if you wander past and things look ready to harvest, please do so, and enjoy the fact that Bristol is the UK’s first Incredible Edible City.

If you’d like to get involved in the project, please do contact us – the more the merrier! 

 

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How to make a light saber

Blogging science to life

Thu 1 January 1970,

Ross and Beth have been getting all excited about Star Wars: Episode VII, so they've only gone and used science to make their own lightsabers! Here's how:

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Which is stronger... glass, sapphire, or a gorilla?

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Wed 10 September 2014,

What's the difference between gorilla glass & sapphire? Is glass a solid or a liquid? How is glass able to support the weight of a 32-stone gorilla? Join Ross as he explores the science of glass.

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Do try this at home: How to burn metal

Blogging science to life

Fri 1 August 2014,

How is it possible to set fire to steel using nothing but a 9V battery? Ross of the Live Science Team shows you a simple but beautiful science experiment to burn metal, which you can try at home!

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How to make a hot air balloon

Blogging science to life

Fri 1 August 2014,

Just how big is a hot air balloon?  And what exactly is it made from?  This week, Ross visits Cameron Balloons, one of the oldest makers of hot air balloons - then puts his new-found knowledge into practice as he shows you how to make your own balloon at home!

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Record Breakers!

Blogging science to life

Thu 31 July 2014, Jen

It’s official (well, almost): At-Bristol now holds the record for the world’s longest-ever popcorn string! As we sit back and reflect on exactly what happened (and why on earth we thought it was a good idea) last week, here’s how we did it:

Image credit: Lee Pullen Photography

Why did we do it?

All those months back when we began work on our fantastic new Food! exhibition, we thought that it would be brilliant to have a really big celebratory event on the opening weekend, and something that everyone could come and take part in and enjoy – hence, a food-related world record attempt!  

So, once we’d settled on a popcorn-related world record to tie in with our LED popcorn laser exhibit, the planning began: we sent a detailed application to Guinness World Records, after which we received the specifications for completing the record attempt and breaking the previous record of 277m. 

After some rudimentary maths we worked out that we’d need approximately 30,000 pieces of popcorn to reach our target of 300m – with an amount of that size, we knew that we needed some professional popcorn help!  Luckily, Showcase Cinema De Lux Bristol came to the rescue and donated all 10kg of the popcorn to us!

Image credit: Lee Pullen Photography

The big event

The record attempt itself had to take place over a 24 hour period, so we started at 2pm on Friday 25 July, and finished at 2pm the following day. Overall we threaded popcorn for a total of 14 hours (stopping for an overnight breather), hugely aided by the great British public and At-Bristol visitors, staff and volunteers. We provided 1m lengths of super-strength polyester thread, which people then threaded popcorn on to with a needle and thimble, taking around 10 minutes for a metre.

We then tied all the separate lengths together and laid them down on the ground against a 5m marker, tying on tags at intervals so we could keep track of how far we’d got.  Special commendations go to Jemima Carder, who threaded a whopping 22m of popcorn, and 12-year old Nick, who created the longest single chain, measuring 3m!

Image credit: Lee Pullen Photography

Two independent witnesses were on hand at all times to oversee the entire event, ensuring that we kept to the rules (all popcorn had to be touching, and there could be no gaps in the threads) and that all was above board. The world record attempt culminated in a big celebration event for Food! on Millennium Square: Almondsbury Garden Centre and Incredible Edible Bristol planted our next edible planter, BEATS supplied lots of delicious street food, and Bristol Samba got us all dancing!

Image credit: Lee Pullen Photography

We beat the previous record of 277m with an hour to go, and finished at 320m – a new world record! The independent witnesses verified the final length (containing 32,000 pieces), so now all of the required evidence will be sent off to Guinness World Records, and we’ll await their official verdict in a few weeks’ time.

The popcorn string is currently on display in the foyer of At-Bristol, so anyone who was involved in the attempt (or who just wants to come and see something pretty amazing!) can come down and see it.

A special thanks goes to the following people:

  • Sophie at Showcase Cinema De Lux Bristol – for donating 10kg of popcorn
  • Our independent witnesses – Hannah, James, Sophie & Ellie from Research Media, Ed from Lloyds Bank, Paul from UWE, Julia from Friends Life, Rebekah from DTZ, and Mary and Katie from Bristol Crown Court 
  • All At-Bristol staff and volunteers

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How to measure the speed of light - with CHOCOLATE!

Blogging science to life

Fri 25 July 2014,

Have a go at some kitchen quantum mechanics as Ross and Nerys show you how to measure the speed of light using a bar of chocolate and your microwave!  Who knew physics could be so tasty?!

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