Blog posts

Volcano experts visit At-Bristol!

Blogging science to life

Thu 21 February 2013, Written by: Alice

Last week was half term for Bristol schools, with lots going on throughout At-Bristol. Over the holiday, Volcano Lab was supported by a team of 17 volcano experts from the University of Bristol. They kindly brought a giant model volcano which had been designed and built in collaboration with their partners at the University of Nottingham. A central tube of liquid has gas bubbles rising up through it, so visitors and volcanologists could observe and relate what they see to what’s really happening beneath a volcano.

 The experts brought their own volcano machine

Throughout Saturday 9 and Sunday 10 February the experts were on hand to talk about their travels around the world studying volcanoes. They were happy to answer all kinds of questions about these amazing places, from ‘are there any volcanoes in the UK?’ (yes, but they are extinct now) to ‘what would happen if you fell into lava?’ (lava is so viscous you could walk on it, but at around 1000°C it’s incredibly hot and so falling in would not be good news!).

 Volcano experts spoke to almost 1,000 At-Bristol visitors!

As well as enabling our visitors to find out more, the experts also helped our Live Science Team brush up on their volcanic knowledge:

Our Live Science team brush up their volcanic knowledge with some expert help

From Monday until Friday the volcanologists returned to At-Bristol for an hour in the afternoon to share a demonstration and talk with even more interested visitors. Over the seven days the team of experts was able to engage with almost 1,000 visitors!

At-Bristol sends a massive thank you to the team from the University of Bristol for all their support with Volcano Lab over February half term.

Thanks to Alice, our Live Lab and Shows Officer, for writing this blog!  Although we've said goodbye to our friends from the University of Bristol, Volcano Lab is continuing until 10 March, with regular drop-in sessions every day.

All Live Lab activities are included in our general admission price; you can buy your tickets to At-Bristol online here, or by calling our Bookings team on 0845 345 1235 (Monday - Friday, 9am - 5pm, excluding bank holidays).

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After Hours: Heart-stopping Attraction

Blogging science to life

Sat 9 February 2013, Written by: Heather

After the success of our first-ever After Hours adult-only evening in December, we’ve been hard at work to make sure our next event is just as fun!  Whether you’re loved-up or happily single, if you’re after something a little more inspiring than flowers and chocolates this February then look no further than Heart-stopping Attraction – our own take on Valentine’s Day, with an At-Bristol twist of course…

For all the heartbreakers – and heartbroken – out there, this is your chance to get up close and personal with some real tubes and chambers as our dissection experts take you through the ins and outs of the cardiac system – and if you’re feeling strong-stomached, you can even step up and wield the scissors yourself.  Plus, whether it’s soppy films or internet cats that usually tug on your heartstrings, have a go at pulling on the real deal and you might just be impressed by how strong they are!

Forget Take Me Out: over in the Studio, we’ve been taking inspiration from the brightest, loudest, and most downright fabulous birds across the globe in preparation for our very own dating gameshow.  Prepare to strut your stuff, sing your heart out, and shake your tail feather like a lusty jungle bird as we battle it out to discover who’s got what it takes to impress in the weird and wonderful world of courtship dancing!

We’ve also been fine-tuning the wiring in our pop-up dating booth with a difference – complete with heart-rate monitor!  If you’re feeling brave enough to put your emotions under the microscope, then we’ll analyse your body’s reactions over the course of a micro-date with a fellow volunteer.  Whether you’re the master of playing it cool or you get a bad case of butterflies whenever someone catches your eye, we’ll soon find out which questions get you hot (or not!) under the collar…

What could be more romantic than lying back under the stars and pointing out constellations with your lover?  Sadly, in reality it’s often more a case of shivering whilst struggling to discern what’s lurking beyond the glow of urban lights (is that the moon? Venus? Easyjet?) before giving up and going back inside.   Forget wet grass and pesky streetlamps in the Planetarium: we’re talking comfy seats and a guaranteed view of the Universe’s most spectacular vistas.  We’ll also be taking a slightly different look at constellations and hearing all about what those racy ancient Greeks thought was going on up in the night sky – scandalous!

As if all that isn’t enough, of course our two floors of exhibits will be open for plenty of hands-on fun.  Have a play with our magnetic sand and put the laws of attraction to the test, whisper sweet nothings across the whisper dishes, or head over to Animate It and create your own rom-com or epic love story – Wallace and Gromit style! 

All that excitement is bound to work up an appetite, and we’re sure you’ll love the hearty home-made treats our chef will be serving downstairs in the café.  Warm your February cockles with a West Country lamb stew or root vegetable casserole, followed by a decadent double chocolate brownie – and dinner’s only a fiver!  We’ve just been awarded the Soil Association’s prestigious Food For Life silver Catering Mark and Compassion in World Farming’s Good Egg Award for our commitment to providing fresh, local and ethically-sourced food – yet another reason to make a whole night of it.  Plus, whether you’re in need of a little Dutch courage before asking for that girl’s number or it’s your turn to get a round in for your mates, we’ll have bars on each floor, fully stocked with drinks and tempting treats to keep you fuelled all night long!

Whilst we can’t guarantee you love, we can guarantee that it’s not your average night out…

Buy tickets!

£7 adults

£6 concessions and At-Bristol members

Planetarium shows - £1 extra

Two course dinner - £5

Buy your tickets online, or call our lovely bookings team on 0845 345 1235 (Mon – Fri 9am – 5pm)


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Toddler Takeover… the testing panel!

Blogging science to life

Fri 11 January 2013, Written by: Nicole

With the first ever Toddler Takeover double bill under a week away we thought we better make sure we had got our planned activities just right… so we invited in a judging panel to road test them…

Toddlers and parents from a local storydance group came in to give our Toddler Takeover Crazy Creatures activities a dry run before we launch them on Thursday 17th and Friday 18th January. As well as the first ever Toddler Takeover double bill Crazy Creatures will also feature the ‘Beautiful Bug Ball’ - a special baby disco where little ones can dress up and head down to the dance floor to shake their tail feathers!

Local little ones tested making wiggly dancing worms; the perfect accessory for any shimmy!

Get your antenna on and get down!

Judging by all the smiles, gurgles and giggles we think it’s safe to say we satisfied the harshest critics!

With disco lights, bubbles and baby dancefloor classics the Beautiful Bug Ball is sure to be a roaring success with your cute critters too.

As well as getting down to the funky beats there will be the usual host of hands-on activities, interactive exhibits, Little Stars Planetarium show and Home Sweet Home - storytelling taking little ones on an imaginary woodland adventure.

Find out more
Buy tickets online
or call 0845 345 1235 (Monday to Friday 9am – 5pm excluding Bank Holidays) to speak with our lovely Bookings line.





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Festive Fun in At-Bristol!

Blogging science to life

Tue 11 December 2012, Written by: Heather

It’s pouring with rain, the kids are bouncing off the walls, and distant relatives are soon to descend.  If you’re at a loss for ways of keeping everyone entertained over the Christmas break, then look no further than At-Bristol for festive fun the whole family can enjoy – but forget yet another visit to Santa’s grotto and prepare yourself for something a lot more exciting…

Santa’s Invention Workshop

The Live Lab area has been transformed into Santa’s Invention Workshop for the duration of the holiday period, so drop in whenever you like and get hands-on with some Christmas crafting!  Let the At-Bristol elves guide you as you make your own working LED decorations to take home, or simply let your imagination run riot – we’ve even seen some light-up test-tubes for the seriously scientific Santas out there!  Plus, discover some unusual uses for everyday items as we show you how to transform balloons and CDs into mini hovercraft, and create rockets out of old drinks bottles – perfect for inspiring little elves to entertain themselves once you get back home!

Party Tricks in the Studio

If your family’s getting tired of dusting off the board games and cracker jokes in the evening, then look no further than our Studio for some after-dinner Party Tricks that are sure to impress!  We’ve got Christmassy chemistry galore as we light the Flaming Pudding Tornado, create a snowstorm in a teacup, and find out how Santa fuels his sleigh.  Expect lasers, explosions and Christmas sweets as you’ve never seen them before – just make sure you don’t try these at home!

Winter Night Sky

For something more sedate – but no less impressive – now is the perfect time to take a tour of the Winter Night Sky in the Planetarium.  December’s long nights might make getting up in the morning a drag, but it also means there’s plenty of time for some star spotting in the evening before the kids go to bed.  Discover distant galaxies and find out what you can see from your own back garden over Christmas with an expert-led show, then grab one of our take-home guides and put your new-found knowledge to the test back at home – it certainly beats yet another evening spent watching endless repeats of festive films!

The At-Bristol Café and Shop

All that creating and exploring is bound to work up an appetite, so head over to the downstairs café for some warming winter treats, including gingerbread hot chocolate and one of Uncle Kev’s cakes.  All our home-mad food is freshly cooked on-site using locally-sourced ingredients – perhaps that’s why it tastes so good! Finally, if you’re after last-minute presents before the big day (and pocket money treats the whole year round!) look no further than the At-Bristol shop for quirky gifts and scientific stocking fillers for the whole family.  From gadgets and gizmos for the technophile in your life to inspired gifts for intrigued young minds, you’re sure to find something unique for even the most difficult to buy for!

Of course, as well as all our special Christmas fun we’ve got two floors filled with hundreds of interactive, exciting exhibits for the whole family to explore.  Let your littlest ones’ imaginations run wild with story time in the under eights’ areas, play a family game of virtual volleyball, create your very own animated adventure, and be amazed by tornadoes, cosmic rays and the innermost workings of the human body – all under one roof!

Don’t forget that we’re closed on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day, but open every other day over the holidays from 10am to 6pm.

Merry Christmas!


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Green Christmas Blogfest: Part 3

Blogging science to life

Tue 11 December 2012, Written by: Heather

The third and final of our live blogs from Bristol's Green Blogfest: be inspired by our Christmas crafting and green gifts!

Get thrifty with our Christmas activities

Tatty tinsel and faded fairy lights?  Before you replace them with some decadent decorations, consider making your own instead!  Paper chains are great to make at home, but here in At-Bristol we’ve taken Christmas crafting to the next level with Santa’s Invention Workshop: drop in and make your own LED tree decorations, as well as discovering some nifty new uses for everyday items that you might find lying around the house.  We’re turning old CDs into mini hovercraft, and empty drinks bottles into rockets – but your imagination’s the limit! 

No batteries required!

Finally, if you’re hoping for green gifts under the tree this year, make sure you suggest Santa pops into the At-Bristol shop to find all these and more:

Eco-cups: whether your caffeine hit of choice is a double-choc-gingerbread-skinny-latte or a straight-up espresso shot, ditch the disposable takeaway cups in favour of a super-stylish porcelain reusable one.  Not only will you avoid throwing all those cardboard cups to landfill, but your drink will stay just the right temperature – and with a range of designs to choose from, you’ll look pretty hot too!

Water-powered cars: fuelled by nothing but water and creating only hydrogen as a by-product, the life-size version might not have hit the mass markets quite yet, but you can still take these mini water-powered cars out for a spin! 

Lemon and potato clocks: forget fiddling around with batteries on Christmas morning: simply plug one of these clocks into a lemon or a leftover spud and voila – accurate timekeeping powered by nature!

Once you’ve picked all your perfect presents, carry them home in one of our recycled brown paper bags – or better still, remember to bring your own bag with you!

Merry Green Christmas from all in At-Bristol! #greenbristol

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Green Christmas Blogfest: Part 2

Blogging science to life

Tue 11 December 2012, Written by: Heather

In the second instalment of our live blogs from Bristol's Green Blogfest, here's a look at how At-Bristol itself is leading the way in sustainability - and how you can take inspiration for your very own Green Christmas!

Be inspired by the At-Bristol building itself

At-Bristol is a unique, cutting-edge building, full of ingenious ways of keeping itself warm, saving energy and reducing water usage.  If you’re in need of some motivation to go green, try setting yourself a target: we took part in the 10:10 campaign, aiming to cut our energy consumption by 10% by 2010 – instead we reduced it by 12% in just 12 months, and two years later, we’ve reached a reduction of 20%!

It’s freezing out there but before you turn the radiator up to full blast, take a leaf out of At-Bristol’s book and try reusing the heat you’ve got around you.  We’re not suggesting you install your very own version of our unique phase-change storage tank and air-source heat pumps, but simple things like putting on an extra jumper, closing the curtains at dusk or even investing in some loft insulation all mean you can turn the thermostat down a notch or two this winter – saving energy and money too!

Here in At-Bristol we have an advanced system of 138 sensors to monitor our energy usage throughout the building, so we know just how much electricity we’re using – and can pinpoint ways of saving it too!  You can get an easy-to-use monitor for your own home; many libraries and energy companies will even lend them to you free of charge.  We smashed our energy-saving targets by taking simple steps to reduce the amount of electricity we use around At-Bristol, and the good news is they’re easy to do at home too!  Staff in our offices are reminded to turn off lights and appliances when they’re not in use, we use night electricity wherever possible, and we improved the efficiency of our building systems – at home it’s easy to put the washing machine on at night, bleed your radiators once a year, and make sure your boiler is in top working order in order to be as efficient as possible.

At-Bristol's solar PV array

As well as trying hard to save energy wherever we can, we’re also the very proud owners of central Bristol’s largest photovoltaic array up on our roof, with 208 solar panels – that’s enough to cover more than two tennis courts!  Working at peak efficiency, our solar roof produces enough energy to power 11 average households, and saves over 25 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year.  Perhaps you could put some solar panels on your Christmas wish list this year – or visit the Energy Saving Trust for all the information on how to finance and install your own!

It’s not just energy that we like to save in At-Bristol: we’re always looking for ways to reduce our water consumption too.  We adapted all our toilets to reduce the amount of water used per flush by a third – and whilst some of our technology certainly is cutting-edge, all it took was an old plastic bottle in the cistern!  Our water features on Millennium Square might be too icy to splash in at the moment, but they’re still collecting plenty of rainwater which we then use in our cleaning machines – in much the same way as a water butt in the garden can harvest rain to water plants and wash the car at home.

We're blogging live from the Green Blogfest so stay tuned for the next instalment! Follow the comversation on twitter: #greenchristmas

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Green Christmas Blogfest: Part 1

Blogging science to life

Tue 11 December 2012, Written by: Heather

We’re very excited to be hosting Bristol’s first-ever Green Blogfest today – we’ve invited all our friends from the Bristol Green Capital Engagement Group to get together and share ideas on how everyone in the city can have a more sustainable Christmas this year.  So forget Bing Crosby – we’re certainly dreaming of a Green Christmas instead!  Here are some of the ways in which we’re hoping At-Bristol might inspire you to become a sustainable Santa this year...

Reduce, reuse, recycle…

With all those presents, cards and extra treats over the Christmas season, in the UK we throw away a staggering 3 million tonnes of extra waste over the festive period*.  Here in At-Bristol we’re always looking out for ways of making sure we reduce the amount of waste we produce and reuse and recycle as much as we can.  Did you know that we design and make almost all of our exciting exhibits right here in our workshop?  That means we have complete control over where we source materials, how we put exhibits together, and, importantly, what happens to them when their time on the floor comes to an end.  We have a “cradle to grave” policy in our workshop, so part of your favourite exhibit might well have started out as a different part of somebody else’s favourite a few years ago – and who knows what it might become next!

Our World – no more waste is our SITA Trust-funded exhibition exploring all the ways in which our wonderful planet recycles everything into something new, making sure nothing is wasted.  For billions of years, nothing new’s come into our system and nothing’s gone out either, meaning the Earth has some pretty ingenious ways of reusing things, whether it’s turning rocks into sand or making plants out of the air we breathe.  If nature can find a use for old gas, surely there’s something we can do with all those leftover sprouts and wrapping paper trimmings come Boxing Day - turkey curry and homemade cards next year perhaps?

Food, glorious food!

It’s the season to eat, drink and be merry, but all that festive feasting can come at a cost to the environment as well as to our waistlines!  From mass-produced meats to forgotten food – we waste around 230,000 tonnes over the holiday period in the UK**.  Try popping into the At-Bristol café for some more sustainable tasty treats instead, including Rainforest Alliance-certified coffee, locally-sourced organic ingredients and Uncle Kev’s home-cooked cakes – yum!  Plus, making everything on-site means we waste less packaging and use less fuel in transporting food too.

We're blogging live from the Green Blogfest so stay tuned for the next instalment! Follow the conversation on twitter: #greenbristol

* source:

** source:

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After Hours - sneak preview!

Blogging science to life

Thu 29 November 2012, Written by: Nicole

With under a week to go we’re getting all excited about next week’s launch event of our first ever adult evening!

After Hours is for all you lovely people who’ve ever asked or wondered:
1) ‘Is At-Bristol just for kids?’
2) ‘Do I have to borrow some children to visit At-Bristol?’
3) ‘What is in that big glass building with a huge silver ball
    attached to it?’

The chance to come along with your mates, grab a drink and explore the fantastic interactive exhibits!

As well as finding out what’s inside your local science centre we’ll also have several festive activities which delve into the wonderful world of seasonal science!

The café will be open serving a selection of hot and cold food, there will be licensed bars, serving mulled ciders, scientific shortbread and a variety of other drinks, dotted around the venue and we will have live music!

Big kids can get creative in Santa’s Invention workshop and make some silly seasonal craft including LED Christmas decorations, mini kites and rocket mice!

The Planetarium (aka. the big silver ball on Millennium Square) will be showing our Autumn night sky star show. Discover whole galaxies and constellations with our expert presenters, plus learn some nifty star-spotting techniques to use at home.

In the studio watch explosive demos with the Live Science team including screaming jelly babies, flaming Christmas pudding and setting fire to ice!

So it’s perfect if you are looking for a meet-up with friends, date night or Christmas party with a difference…

To get you all fired up we’ve got a sneak preview of some of our demos – what with all the Christmas lights being turned on around town this is our cool science version…

Red and green lasers through smoke. The straight beams of light create these amazing patterns. 

 Buy tickets!

  • £7.00 adults
  • £6.00 concessions and At-Bristol members

Buy tickets online

Or phone 0845 4586499 (Monday - Friday, 9am - 5pm excluding Bank Holidays)


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Food glorious food!

Blogging science to life

Fri 26 October 2012, Written by: Nicole

The turn in the seasons and the return of cooler temperatures means we’re all craving a bit of the warmer stuff, and the At-Bristol café does not disappoint.

We’ve updated our menu to include some winter favourites; including pie and mash, pasta dish of the day and a changing selection of soups. As well as the lighter selection of sandwiches and paninis.

There’s a delicious variety of dishes to fuel you through the winter months and where possible our ingredients are locally sourced ingredients and freshly made to order.

Also if you're a fan of all things sweet then check out the tasty assortment of homemade cakes. From Uncle Kev’s carrot cake to crumbly shortbread there is an indulgence to banish away any winter blues!

With seasonal additions for Halloween including apples drowned in chocolate and caramel, shortbread bats and the spooky spider web sponge cake – it would be rude not to have a devilishly delicious treat!

We love the new additions and hope you do too!

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Have a ghoulishly good half term!

Blogging science to life

Mon 6 October 2008,

We’ve been prepping the gruesomely good Dissection Lab ready for visitors.  Celebrate all things human with our amazing vein ray! Visualise your own veins then use the body paints to create your own unique gorey arm makeup complete with muscles and bones!

Next get under the skin of what makes our bodies tick and discover more about the heart and lungs with animal organ dissection. You direct where the Live Science team wields the knife and explore the amazing organs to your heart’s content! Finally you can make your own fake blood specimen to take home, with our secret blood recipe which we will take to our graves…

Continuing on the anatomical theme there’s the Going for Gold show. Get your pulses racing and learn all about hearts, lungs, limbs and all manner of sporty things! 

If you need to escape the blood and organs why not take a trip to the stars and have some intergalactic fun with our Autumn Night Sky and Little Stars planetarium shows? And for the little monsters there is The magical forest storytelling to ignite their imaginations.

Plus visit the cafe for a ghoulishly good selection of treats including; Horrid house and Pumpkin shortbreads, Spidery Marshmallow treats, Gingerbread swamp monsters, Apples drowned in chocolate and caramel, Spider web sponge cake and, although we are used to seeing yummy mummies in our café, the irresistible Mummy muffins! 

All homemade and delicous... heavenly!



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