At-Bristol Science Centre

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Fairtrade for Sustainability - The At-Bristol view

Blogging science to life

Thu 26 March 2015, Written by: Nicole

Here in At-Bristol Science Centre we’re lucky enough to be able supply and use Fairtrade goods in a variety of ways, whether in the catering choices we make in our café and events menus, in the shop products we sell or the procurement process for our hands-on science activities.

It’s part of our commitment to sustainable business practice which aims to limit the negative impact of our choices while educating and inspiring others.

These Fairtrade choices mean that as well as providing our visitors with higher standard products we’re also able to work with local Fairtrade suppliers and producers in various collaborative, innovative (and often tasty) ways!

Spring kitchen

One such project is one of our latest Spring Kitchen activities in our new Food! exhibition, using Divine chocolate as part of a chocolate tasting masterclass. As well as and kindly donating the chocolate Divine also lent us a chocolatier for the day during Fairtrade fortnight. David popped in to help our visitors and Live Science Team learn the journey from bean to bar and the important role the senses play ready for the launch of our Spring Kitchen - needless to say we had a number of willing volunteers!

These Meet the Expert sessions are important for us and our visitors, creating an important learning experience through interesting conversation and by getting hands-on. During the International Fairtrade Conference week (4-5 July 2015) we’re delighted to be welcoming Ghanian teenagers to our venue to talk to school groups about the life of a chocolate grower.

Our commitment to being a sustainable venue affects all our practices even down to the procurement of the wood for our events terrace, which is Fairtrade certified! Changes such as these have seen us winning the Best Fairtrade café gold award to the second year running and we also managed a gold award for our conferencing services.

Finally we continue to increase the number of Fairtrade products for you lovely lot to get your hands on in our shop. This Spring we’ll add herbal teas, chocolate spreads and herbs and spices to our range including delicious Shaun the sheep Easter eggs – so choosing Fairtrade has never been tastier!

We can’t wait to host and play a part in the International Fairtrade Conference 2015 – only 100 days to wait!

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Behind the scenes: UK's first digital 3D Planetarium!

Blogging science to life

Wed 19 March 2014, Jennifer Garrett

We’re going behind the scenes to find out what it takes to build the UK’s first ever digital 3D Planetarium! 

 planetarium build

Since our exciting news in February 2015, we’ve been busily upgrading our Planetarium to transform it into the UK’s first ever digital 3D Planetarium! Originally known as the Orange Imaginarium when it opened in 2000, the Planetarium is an iconic part of Bristol’s harbourside. Since it opened, we’ve inspired over 1 million visitors with astronomy through our presenter-led shows!   


The renovations began by building a new area next to our Planetarium entrance to house our 3D goggle washing station. Our new shows will use ‘active’ 3D technology, enabling you to fly through the rings of Saturn and journey to distant stars!

Next, we undertook the huge task of taking out all the old seats, pulling up the carpet from the floors and removing the old sound system from the walls. 

star ball out

Dismantling our much-loved Starball was a milestone for the project, as was filling the 5-metre-deep pit in the floor in which it sat! This space has now been made available to a new row of seating. 


Credit: Lee Pullen

Specialists have travelled all the way from Italy and America to fit the new visual and audio systems. In place of the Starball will now be a digital 3D projection system which will display a 360° image on the dome. The new shows will be displayed in ultra high quality (4K resolution) from two projectors, with an eight-channel surround sound audio system, creating a truly immersive experience!

The extensive building works and expert installation of high tech systems have happened while ensuring all our exhibits, and everything else in the building, have kept on running. We’ve rerouted lots of important systems, added over 5 kilometres of cables and doubled the size of our computer server room to get the best out of our brand new kit. 

Floor up

As well as redeveloping the Planetarium and upgrading our technology, we’ve been busy refreshing the Space gallery. 


The entrance has been renovated in the style of the International Space Station. Here we will prepare you for your departure into space, as you perform a spacewalk and find out all about how to survive a space mission! 

Space gallery graphic

As an educational charity, the project has been made possible by support from a variety of organisations and partners including Bristol City Council under the “Bristol Is Open” project. As part of this we have created a new, separate entrance giving access out of hours, opening up the Planetarium to new opportunities as a state-of-the-art data visualisation facility.

From 24 April you will be able to discover the universe from the comfort of your seat. Watch this space for more behind the scenes action!

Planetarium coming soon

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Fifty Shades of Earl Grey

Blogging science to life

Thu 19 March 2015, Heather Nichol

Heather Nichol from Live Science Team explores the physics of time travel! 

When I wake up, my day starts with a hot, steaming cup of tea. The first sip is always the best. Yet, this morning I found myself musing over the age-long argument, milk first, or last? I’ve heard that the answer can be found in the cup you drink from. Traditionally, tea was served in thin china cups that would crack under the heat of boiling water. To preserve the delicate tea cups milk was poured in first, dutifully followed by the boiling tea that had been brewing away in a teapot. But, there must be more to this tea-drinking story? 


Milk is rich in protein and as all scientists know, proteins change when exposed to heat. Dribbling cold milk into a boiling cup of tea causes these proteins to denature, changing their physical structure. The proteins unfold and link together forming lumps of denatured protein and the characteristic “skin” that floats on the surface of your freshly brewed cup. Pouring scalding tea from the pot onto fridge-cold milk slowly and inoffensively lowers the temperature of the tea, ensuring your cup stays below the critical protein-denaturing temperature. 

However, this gloriously glossy white fluid has another scientific trick up its sleeve. When you add milk first the temperature of your tea lowers and curiously keeps it warmer for longer. According to Newton’s cooling curve, the rate of heat loss is inversely proportional to the temperature difference between the tea and the air. Milk sitting at the bottom of your favourite cup gradually lowers the temperature of the boiling tea. This reduces the temperature difference between the tea and the air, thus slowing the rate of heat loss from the tea into its surroundings. 

Pouring milk

How you like your tea is a matter of opinion. When asked I usually respond with a firm, “milk first”. But the truth is, at home I never do. I always put milk in last and my tea tastes just as good. Modern life has changed our traditional tea drinking from a finely-brewed art to a rushed cup in the office before the next meeting. So does it really matter?

On my quest for the perfect cup of tea there was one instruction that appeared to be sacrilege in the British tea-making process and a rule that must be followed by all tea-lovers out there. Never brew a teabag with milk at the same time! The process of brewing tea involves pouring boiling water onto tea leaves or a teabag. Boiling water has lots of kinetic energy and the water molecules move around pretty fast, bouncing off one another. Add loose leaf tea or a teabag and the water molecules start bouncing off the leaves, increasing the rate of diffusion and the release of the teas natural oils, aromas and caffeine. Milk stops this infusion of goodness and leaves you with a weak and disappointingly milky blend.

Whether you like to brew your tea in a teapot or pour the milk in last, that morning brew is a small cup of steaming science.

Find out more!

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How to calculate pi by throwing sausages | Do Try This At Home

Blogging science to life

Fri 27 February 2015,

Did you know it's possible to calculate the number 'pi' by throwing sausages? Ross & Kerina take maths to the kitchen & show you how to try this adaptation of the 'Buffon's Needle Problem' at home.

How to calculate pi by throwing sausages

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How to test your knee-jerk reflex

Blogging science to life

Fri 13 February 2015,

Heather and Beth put their tendons to the test as they explain what causes your leg to kick out when you tap you knee, and show you some more tendon tricks to try at home.

You can also check out more body-based fun for yourself here in Medical Lab, now on in the Live Lab!

How to tesst your knee-jerk reflex

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Triple win at the South West Tourism Excellence Awards!

Blogging science to life

Fri 13 February 2015, Jen Forster

Last night, we were lucky enough to be in the finals of the annual South West Tourism Excellence Awards, and went away with a hat trick of awards – for Large Visitor Attraction of the Year, Sustainable Tourism Award and Venue & Business Tourism Award!

Robbie, Caitlin & Sarah holding the 3 awards

Robbie (Live Science Team), Caitlin (Visitor Services Team) and Sarah (Venue Hire Team) holding the awards!

A group of us from teams across At-Bristol science centre went to the super swanky awards do at the Grand Pier in Weston-Super-Mare, and were treated to entertainment and a delicious 3-course meal before the awards got underway. The room was packed with finalists from across the South West, from hotels, B&Bs, pubs, visitor attractions and more – so it was great to be amongst the cream of the tourism industry for our region.

In the Greenhouse!

In our Greenhouse!

With hearts a-racing as the finalists were read out, we were absolutely delighted to win Silver in the Sustainable Tourism category, Silver in Venue & Business Tourism category and Bronze for Large Visitor Attraction of the Year!

Big name winners on the night included Glastonbury legend Michael Eavis and chef Nathan Outlaw; Michael Eavis was given a special award for outstanding contribution to tourism in the region while Nathan Outlaw won top honours for the Taste of the South West.

It’s always lovely to win stuff, but it’s even nicer to win stuff when you know how hard various teams from across the company have worked during the year – we’ve had some big events and launches happening in At-Bristol over the last 12 months, so fantastic to be rewarded for it!

Ape-ing around!

For full information on the South West Tourism Excellence Awards click here.


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How to make a motor | Do Try This At Home

Blogging science to life

Fri 16 January 2015,

Motors are used in everything from cars, to planes, to robots - and it's easy to make one for yourself at home. Nerys and Sarah of the Live Science Team show you how to make a simple motor using only a battery, a wire, a magnet, and a screw.

How to make a radioactive image

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LEGO® Robotics – comes to At-Bristol!

Blogging science to life

Mon 19 January 2015, Eddie Peacock, Formal Learning Communicator and Robot Whisperer


After three very successful pilot workshops last year, we are now ready, and so are the robots. With many students due to attend the workshop this term, we are sure they’ll have as much fun with the robots as we have had, but don’t just take my word, these are the words of the students from the pilot sessions “this is the best school trip ever!”

Favourite parts of the workshop went from “controlling the robots and playing with them”, to “completing the final challenge!” One of my favourite parts has to be transforming one of the students from human to robot, for our human/robot demo – it always gets a real good laugh.

LEGO workshop

When asked what they learnt “programming robots, and making them avoid obstructions” was a common answer. Many groups also developed a real bond with their robots. “My favourite part was playing with Echo (one of the robots) and programming him” stated one student from St Andrews C of E in Gloucestershire. “If I needed to design a robot I will make it look like my friend Echo.”

When the pilot workshops were over, one of the students said “take good care of Kilo the robot”. To be honest I think I am starting to develop a bond with the robots myself, which I guess is easy after spending time bringing them to life!

During the workshop we look at how robots can be sent to extreme places and the jobs they do. The students were asked where they would send their robots, and here are some of our favourite answers:

“Our design would be on the desert because it is really hot and the robot would need to avoid all the animals.”

“Our robots job would be to explore Pluto and find out if there was any life on it.”

“My robot would look like Echo, and I would make it go to the desert to get some water.”

LEGO workshop

If I could send a robot anywhere it would be to the bottom of the ocean to discover strange new sea creatures. Where would you send a robot and what job would the robot do?

Visit us at if you would like to find out more about this workshop, or phone our bookings team at 0117 915 7777 (8.30am – 5.30pm, Mon-Fri, excluding Bank Holidays).

We hope to see you in LEGO® Robotics soon!


IET Logo

This workshop is supported by The Institution of Engineering and Technology


Many thanks to Eddie for writing this blog! If you'd like to discover more about what the IET offers for teachers, check out their website here.



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How to make a laser microscope | Do Try This At Home

Blogging science to life

Fri 16 January 2015,

Microscopes allow you to see the world invisible to the naked eye. Will and Robbie of the Live Science Team show you a simple experiment with a laser that you can try at home to search for life in a droplet of water.

How to make a radioactive image

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How to make a macro-lens | Do Try This At Home

Blogging science to life

Fri 9 January 2015,

Macro-photography allows you to take your camera and zoom-in to see what the world looks like up close. In this video, Ross shows you a few cheap options to make use of lenses you may already have and how to hack a laser-pointer and the camera on your phone to make your own macro-lens.

How to make a radioactive image

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