Blogging science to life
Mon 7 October 2013, Written by: Dr Joel Goldstein
Dr Joel Goldstein is a CERN researcher and particle physicist based at Bristol University.
What is the LHC?
The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is a huge scientific machine buried 100m under the French and Swiss countryside near Geneva. It consists of thousands of components (magnets, vacuum pipes, cryogenics, electronics....) formed into a 27km circumference ring, and it accelerates intense beams of protons to almost the speed of light before smashing them in to each other. It is run by the European Laboratory for Particle Physics, known as CERN.
What are you trying to find out with your research?
We are trying to determine what the fundamental building blocks of the universe are, and how they interact with each other. The huge energy of the protons colliding at the LHC can produce new particles like the Higgs Boson, probing the fabric of nature at the smallest scales scientists have ever reached.
What does the work at CERN mean for me in Bristol?
The results from the LHC are helping to answer some of the fundamental questions that humans have been trying to answer for millennia, like what is the nature of the universe and where did everything we see in it come from. Many of the members of the public are just as interested in answering these questions as scientists and philosophers.
On a more practical level, discoveries in fundamental science can lead to advances in technology. Early particle physics research revolutionised our understanding of physics, and a century later the effects of that revolution are everywhere in our world: computers, DVD players, mobile phones and so on.
Finally, the technology we develop for research purposes can spin-out directly into the wider world. If you need an X-ray or PET scan, the most modern systems use particle detectors adapted from those designed for our experiments. And of course the World Wide Web was developed at CERN.
What first got you interested in Physics?
My parents gave me a few popular science books when I was growing up. I enjoyed reading about all areas of science, but I got well and truly hooked by the beautiful simplicity of fundamental physics - the idea that the entire complex universe can be described by a few very simple rules.
What is the favourite part of your job?
I love the variety. I do public talks, teaching, computer programming, mathematics, electronics, engineering, plumbing, management, and many, many more things as regular parts of my work. The biggest excitement I get however, is to go underground to see the LHC and its experiments. The size, complexity and ambition of the project is truly overwhelming, and I am still thrilled to be part of it.
Talk us through an average day for you…
I try to balance my responsibilities for teaching and administration with my research. Today, for example, after a quick check of e-mails and the latest public results from my field I will be meeting with a technician to discuss some work on building prototypes of the next generation of particle detectors. Then I am going to do some preparation work for the undergraduate tutorial and teaching sessions I have tomorrow, before sitting down with the team I have working on possible upgrades to the current LHC detectors. We will review the progress made over the past few days and plan the next stages of our tests.
I also need to catch up with a couple of my post-graduate students to see how their research is going, looking for new, unknown particles being produced in LHC collisions. Unusually, I do not have any planned video conferences with colleagues at CERN today, so I hope to have time to talk to my funding agency, arrange flights for my next trip out to Geneva and maybe even tidy up my office a bit! My afternoon will finish in a seminar about the latest results in the study of top quarks, followed perhaps by some lively post-seminar discussions in one of the many fine pubs on St Michael’s Hill.
Many thanks to Joel for writing this blog. You can find out more about his work here.
Joel will be taking part in this week’s After Hours: Space Odyssey event, on Thursday 10 October in the session ‘Everything you wanted to know about the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) but were too afraid to ask’, so come along with questions ready!
Blogging science to life
Wed 10 April 2013, Written by: Chris
We catch up with At-Bristol’s Formal Learning Manager Chris O’Callaghan to get the low-down on what to expect from At-Bristol in the Abu Dhabi Science Festival (14-23 November) this year:
Q. Tell us a little bit about the background to the science festival – how long has it been running, and how long have At-Bristol been involved in the project?
Abu Dhabi’s first ever science festival was in 2011 and has been running every year since. At-Bristol have been involved since the very beginning, so we’re delighted to be preparing to go for the third time to this world-class science festival.
Q. How has our involvement changed over the years?
The festival keeps on growing. Last year they welcomed over 120,000 participants and they are hoping to inspire even more future scientists at the 2013 edition of the festival! As the festival keeps growing, so does At-Bristol’s involvement with more of our incredible science communicators heading out to support Edinburgh International Science Festival deliver this huge-scale initiative.
Q. What particular exhibits, workshops or shows will you be delivering out in Abu Dhabi?
We’ll be sending out an expert team of 6 science communicators from At-Bristol to deliver 3 very different activities.
Go Animate is a really popular school workshop, using the tools publics visitors see in At-Bristol’s Animate It exhibition. We’re taking out 7 animation stations to get schools and families in Abu Dhabi creating their own animations.
DNA Codebreakers is a challenging laboratory workshop, where participants extract and visualise their own DNA! We’ve not taken out lab activities before, so the teams are really excited about working with audiences at the festival in this new format.
Finally, At-Bristol has a world-renowned reputation in astronomy with our iconic 90-seater Planetarium. We’re taking our popular Night Sky star shows to Abu Dhabi to deliver in an inflatable dome and the teams are busy adapting the show to help encourage active stargazing among the thousands of audience members predicted to gaze up at the stars in the 110 shows scheduled for the festival.
Q. In terms of logistics, can you tell us a bit about working on a project like this? (How much kit do you need, how many staff are going, how long does it take to organise?)
This project is mega! We’re working alongside colleagues at Edinburgh International Science Festival and teams already out in Abu Dhabi to prepare for this, the world’s largest science festival of its kind. Translators, education specialists, freight companies, customs house, graphic designers, production managers, sponsors, universities, media and PR….have I forgotten anyone? Definitely!
There’s so many different talents that come together to achieve something on this scale. Luckily, we focus solely on ensuring we are prepared to deliver the most engaging, exciting and innovative activities and other people worry about the rest! We started planning for this festival in December 2012 and have already shipped over all the materials needed for the 3 activities. We’re on the final countdown until the team of 6 leave for Abu Dhabi in early November.
Q. Can you try and describe a typical day (if there is such a thing!) working at the Abu Dhabi Science Festival ?
3 words come to mind: fast, frantic and fantastic! In accommodating the huge audiences that attend the festival, the days are long. They start before 8:30am and end at 10:00pm, working firstly with school groups and then with visiting public. You deliver 12 45-minute workshops or shows every day, but never get bored as every group is different. There’s a real energy to each day, as camera crews buzz around the festival site and VIPs from across the UAE and beyond come to experience the excitement of the festival (we’ve even had royalty visit At-Bristol’s workshops in the past!).
Q. What is your favourite aspect about the festival?
We mentor and support budding science communicators whilst in Abu Dhabi. These are local Emirati undergraduate students who co-deliver the activities alongside the At-Bristol teams. This is what makes the festival so special, as you help share our skills of facilitation and delivery and work together as a diverse team to engage with the thousands of visiting children each year.
Many thanks to Chris for writing this blog. You can find out more about the Abu Dhabi Science Festival (14-23 November) here - at www.abudhabisciencefestival.ae
Blogging science to life
Mon 30 September 2013,
Where is the constellation Perseus? Ross from the Live Science Team shows you how to find him, along with Algol the 'demon star':
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Blogging science to life
Wed 4 September 2013, Written by: Ursa
On Friday it’s a special watery Toddler Takeover and we're so excited! We’ve got the place to ourselves and we can’t wait to meet you all. There’ll be no older boys and girls running around, just us – and we can explore all day long.
We've been on an adventure with a puddle and we're going to tell you all about it in storytime. We met a polar bear and a snake on the way. We’ve also been on an adventure in space (don’t we get around!) and we’d love to tell you all about it in Little Stars in the Planetarium. It’s a bit dark inside the Planetarium, but not completely, and there's so much to see and hear you won’t notice if it’s a bit darker than you normally have your night light.
At-Bristol have got lots of watering cans, jugs, funnels and flower pots, and they are going to let us water their plants. That sounds like fun. There are also lots of things to float in the water or sink to the bottom – so we can experiment like real scientists.
Leo and I like making things and you can make a fish out of a paper plate, paint it and swim it home with you as well.
It is raining on Friday? I need to ask my Mum.
See you on Friday.
Thanks to Ursa for writing this!
Toddler Takeovers are special days full of fun activities just for under fives. Click here for more information on this Friday's Splish, Splash, Splosh! Takeover.
Blogging science to life
Fri 20 September 2013, Written by: Becky
September marks a great time of year for us here in At-Bristol: the start of the new school year and a chance to work with schools on our new and updated workshops and science theatre shows! It’s also the time that we launch another year of our Funded Schools Visits Programme, a scheme to support visits from schools that wouldn’t otherwise to be able to visit At-Bristol.
Our mission in At-Bristol is to make science accessible to all. We really believe that everyone should be able to experience the joy, inspiration and increase in confidence that self-directed learning in a science centre can give, and want to try our best to overcome barriers that mean that some people are not able to experience this. It was for this reason that we set up the programme, a scheme that also offers us the ability to take some of At-Bristol’s equipment out to a school if that is preferable to them.
It was through this programme that my colleague Eddie and I were able to visit Brimble Hill School in Swindon with our Jungle Senses workshop. Brimble Hill is a special needs school, and the teachers knew the children would get a lot from the hands-on approach of an At-Bristol workshop; however, they also felt that leaving the environment of their purpose-built school might be too challenging for the pupils.
Jungle Senses is a workshop about exploring the environment of a jungle using the five senses. It creates an immersive environment of a jungle, and uses props like a real snake skin that children explore with their senses, to help them learn what lives and grows in the rainforest, and for them to imagine what it would feel like to be in a jungle environment.
Louise Fraser, one of the teachers from Brimble Hill, said, “Everybody really enjoyed the event, the content was interesting for the children, and using the senses for children with special needs was a good idea!”
Through the Funded School Visits Programme we are hoping to reach over 700 children a year, to offer them a chance to enhance their science education in ways they couldn’t otherwise experience.
If you would like more information about the Funded School Visit Programme or you would like to donate to the programme, please see our Funded School Visit Programme webpage. If you would like to apply for a funded school visit please contact our Education Team on 0845 345 3344, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Many thanks to Becky, our Formal Learning Officer, for writing this blog!
Blogging science to life
Wed 4 September 2013, Written by: John
In 2009 At-Bristol decided there was sufficient interest from under fives and their families for a journey into space, and a new Planetarium show was needed. In November work began on Little Stars, a show especially for under fives, and this is now one of our most popular shows.
We contacted Hannah Broadway, a local illustrator, to ask whether she had any clients on her books who would be interested in a mission into outer space and might work with us on the show. Not an offer to be put out lightly! Hannah put us in touch with Ursa and Leo, and we realised immediately that they were the perfect pair to share an excitement with space and exploration of the world around us with our younger visitors.
At Easter 2010, Ursa and Leo jetted into space for first Little Stars show, discovering all sorts of colourful and amazing things in space, and a familiar star pattern of a saucepan which has guided and reassured stargazers in the Northern Hemisphere for millennia.
In 2011, a year after interest from toddlers was acknowledged with a programme of special days only for under fives, Toddler Takeovers, At-Bristol approached Ursa and Leo to work together on some new adventures, to be chronicled in a new storytelling programme. Ursa and Leo have been on a lot of adventures in their time, but four in particular stood out, which At-Bristol knew would be relevant to toddlers as the themes were shared by the Early Years National Strategy.
A night in a tent in the garden, punctuated with some strange noises and shadows became Lights On, Lights Off; an adventure in the woods with animals of air, land and water became Home Sweet Home; the disappearance of a puddle and the subsequent quest to find it became The Missing Puddle; and the most sensory of all forests, home to a very forgetful royal family, became The Magical Forest. Later in the year, when new staff joined our Live Science Team, At-Bristol offered an opportunity to work with Ursa and Leo and a new adventure with some unexpected sinking and floating became The Strange Bathtub.
Now, in September 2013, as we approach a fourth glorious year of Toddler Takeovers, we thought it a fitting time to acknowledge all of the love shown by our younger visitors for Ursa and Leo by inviting them to join us as full-time members of At-Bristol staff. We approached Hannah again, and she was delighted to be able to offer them the opportunity to join At-Bristol.
On 18th September Ursa and Leo will join us officially at At-Bristol, and we will welcome them with a Very Important Tea Party especially for our members and day visitors who are under five, and their parents and carers – but keep quiet, because Ursa and Leo don’t know we’re throwing them a party!
After that, Ursa and Leo will be around to say hello during storytelling every weekend and school holiday daytimes, and during Toddler time on Mondays. They’ll be around all day for Toddler Takeovers, and to meet schools in workshops like Go Explore.
Ursa and Leo look forward to meeting you soon!
Many thanks to John, Ursa and Leo's good friend, for writing this biography!
Blogging science to life
Wed 4 September 2013, Written by: Chris
The new school year has arrived already and At-Bristol's education team is raring to go! We've giant rocket fans primed, colourful chemicals fully stocked and gallons of gloopy slime prepared!
Last academic year might seem a long time ago now, after a summer holiday full of Gromit-hunting and model-making, but we're still buzzing from an incredibly successful year for our schools' programme.
55,300 students visited us on a school trip last year! From Bristol Cathedral Choir School (1 minute’s walk away!), to Penryn College, Cornwall (53 hours’ walk away!), At-Bristol proved a really popular way to take learning outside the classroom and bring science to life!
Our experienced education team delivered an incredible 588 innovative workshops, ranging from animals to astrophysics. Our 3 classrooms were constantly full of classes enjoying lots of hands-on activities with our innovative tools, including our 3D Magic Globe, portable IR cameras… and not forgetting the infamous Mr. Stuffee! From scientific storytelling with unusual artefacts for Early Years groups, to DNA extraction and lively debates on genetic testing with A level students, we saw thousands of classes enhance their visit to At-Bristol with our workshops.
At-Bristol's studio was overflowing with 183 lively science theatre shows throughout last academic year. John, Lee and Alice exploded more than 550 hydrogen balloons, winched 65 teachers to the ceiling and hurled nearly 100 melons off the roof of At-Bristol in the process of inspiring primary and secondary school audiences.
53 special theme days prepared the next generation of aeronautical engineers as they developed and tested flying machines in our High Flyers workshop alongside experts from Airbus, whilst secondary students kept the criminals at bay in our Forensics workshop, tending to our crime scene within At-Bristol's exhibitions. We also took some awe-inspiring photos with the Faulkes telescope in Hawaii with older students in our Earth & Beyond Day.
2012/13 is definitely going to be hard to beat… but the education team has been working hard all summer and At-Bristol has an even better education programme for the new term.
Our interactive construction site, Build It! has been a hit throughout summer with younger visitors. Now Early Years and Key Stage 1 visitors can explore this fantastic exhibition alongside a new story-based workshop. Wobble boards and flash floods pose exciting design challenges for budding engineers as they work together to test materials and build a house from the ground up!
With In The Zone proving popular in summer term as a tool to explore health and exercise with secondary groups, we've designed a challenging new lab workshop to get students using restriction enzymes and gel electrophoresis to explore bacteria in real DNA samples.
Another seven new workshops and shows means there's something new and exciting for every year group in At-Bristol. Plus, we've even got an ice rink arriving in Autumn term, turning Millennium Square into a festive spectacular and making a visit here even more memorable!
The year ahead brings lots of curriculum developments and we'll be launching new workshops throughout the year, exploring computing, evolution and inheritance, and rotary flight.
In the meantime, our new full offer for schools is ready for you to browse using our interactive education programmes, and do keep your eyes open for paper versions arriving in schools in September.
Our Bookings Team is here even longer to help with your school booking enquiries - call us on 0845 345 3344 from 8.30am – 5.30pm, Monday – Friday (excluding Bank holidays).
We're looking forward to welcoming your school very soon and making 2013/14 the very best year to visit At-Bristol on your school trip.
Many thanks to Chris, our Formal Learning Manager, for writing this blog!
Blogging science to life
Thu 15 August 2013, Written by: Jen
Top 10 reasons to visit At-Bristol
With so much to do in At-Bristol, it’s hard to pick only a handful of reasons to come, but here’s a starter for ten:
1. We offer a full day out in At-Bristol – you can come and go as you please throughout the day with your wristband, so spend the morning with us, nip out for a stroll or lunch on the Harbourside, and come back for more fun!
2. At-Bristol is suitable for all ages, so no matter how old your tribe is, you’ll find something for everyone. To name just a couple, we run lots of special under fives activities like storytelling and Toddler Takeover days, and we also do adult After Hours evenings where you can re-live the fun of childhood, and play until your heart’s content!
(Credit Lee Pullen)
3. The At-Bristol building is pretty amazing in itself – it was once a railway goods shed (you can still see much of the original structure inside) and is now one of the most innovative buildings in the UK when it comes to sustainability.
4. We have hundreds of exhibits to play on – you can run in a giant hamster wheel, have a go at presenting the weather, test your reactions on In the Zone, create your own film in Animate It! , walk through a tornado and much much more.
(Credit Dave Platt)
5. Our Live Lab and Studio areas give you the chance to get involved and have a go yourself – watch some explosive live science shows, or take part in our latest Live Lab challenge.
6. A day out in At-Bristol is great value for money – not only are you supporting an educational charity, but included in your entry you get admission to hundreds of exhibits, live science shows, Live Lab, two under eights’ areas and a free indoor picnic space. We are also fully accessible for wheelchair users, and have lockers, baby-changing and bottle-warming facilities.
7. Our staff are pretty amazing - did you know that we design and make all of our own exhibits here in At-Bristol? We also make exhibits for other science centres and companies – our Exhibitions team are a talented bunch! Around the venue, our brilliant Live Science team are on hand to help explain the science behind the exhibits, present explosive live science shows, take you on a tour around the solar system and more!
(Credit Lee Pullen)
8. Our award-winning café is just the place to head for a breather – sit outside and enjoy the delights of Millennium Square in the sunshine, let your little ones play in the soft play area, and sample Uncle Kev’s delicious cakes (the tiffin is particularly tasty!).
9. Take a trip to the stars in our Planetarium – sit back and enjoy a journey around the solar system in the presenter-led shows, and learn what to look for in the heavens with our seasonal night sky shows. We also do a special show for under fives called Little Stars.
10. Our shop is the perfect place to spend pocket money and to buy quirky gifts – whether you’re looking for freeze-dried ice cream, science books or rocket sets, there is something for every budget in the At-Bristol shop.
These are just a few reasons to come and visit – share your own top ten reasons on Twitter or Facebook.
Blogging science to life
Thu 1 August 2013, Written by: John
If you’ve ever stopped to consider how a microwave renders chicken tikka masala piping hot, perhaps you haven’t unscrewed the cover to find out? And once off, you probably haven’t been taken by an impulse to strip out the curious components and fashion them into a piece of alluring headwear?
There are, of course, a number of hazards inside electrical appliances, not least microwave ovens, and it’s best to let someone experienced whip your cover off.
However, noting some safety precautions, and alerting the relevant adult that you are mothballing the appliance, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t exercise your curiosity.
At After Hours, our adult evening event on 6th August, we’ll be inviting you to explore your curiosity and safely take apart a selection of appliances to find out what’s inside. As well as microwaves, we’ve got a washing machine, a dishwasher, and some handheld appliances - so grab a screwdriver and see what lies within!
The microwave pictured contained a delightful component with a baby pink band around it and a woven metallic collar. It is in fact the magnetron, the part that makes the microwaves that penetrate and heat your dinner. Although a little heavy to work as a fascinator, it would make a delightful candlestick or pendant necklace.
The possibilities are endless. If headwear isn’t your thing, perhaps a lampshade? A washing machine drum functions superbly as a glitter ball. Or maybe a musical instrument? Or a straightforward objet d’art? We’ll provide sellotape and string, scissors and card, fluffy and glittery things, and some stiff wire.
If you need to complete your creation at home with a turned wooden stand, or by welding on a handle, send us a photo of the finished creation.
March on, Makers!
Book your place!
Tickets cost £7 (£6 for Members and concessions).
Special two course meal: £7.50 per head
You can buy tickets online or call 0845 345 1235 Monday to Friday 9am - 5pm (excluding Bank Holidays).
*Planetarium shows cost an additional £1 and need to be booked in advance.
Blogging science to life
Mon 29 July 2013, Written by: Nicole
Watch Will, from Aardman Animations, squish, shape, mould and make a Gromit right before your eyes!
To try this yourself just book into our Make your Own Gromit model making workshops which are running throughout the summer holidays!
Model making workshops are on the following dates:
25, 27 July; 1, 3, 8, 10, 15, 17, 24, 25, 29, 31 August
At the following times:
11am - 12pm, 1pm - 2pm, 3pm - 4pm
Workshops cost £3 per person, in addition to standard admission and are recommended for adults and children aged 4 and over.