Thursday, 9 July 2015

Odd things scientists do

Over the last two weeks I have cut up 5 plastic carrier bags into teeny tiny pieces. I've done this in Cafes whilst waiting for children's birthday parties to finish or during swimming lessons as well as at work and in the evenings. It is very dull. There is a good reason for cutting up the plastic but what is possibly more interesting is the reaction of the public when I do this in front of people.
A bag in the process of being cut up
Several bags now cut up. I am pleased to say that one of my sons spotted the colour differences and suggested that if I was going to use the material in an experiment I'd need to mix it all up so that it was the same and therefore could be used in "a fair test". Excellent observation.
I spent an hour in a Costa and only one person, a tourist from Norway, asked what I was doing. In contrast, whilst at the swimming pool I was surrounded by four or five young(ish) children, probably aged 6 or 7, asking me what I was doing. As soon as I said that it was for a science project I was regaled for about 20 minutes about how they had enjoyed science week a few weeks ago at school and the fun things that they had done. It was possibly my most interactive bit of outreach for some time and did leave me wondering why science often becomes perceived as dull and boring at some point in a child's school career.

We also hosted the Earthworm Society of Britain last weekend for one of their periodic earthworm collection and identification sessions.
My ex-PhD student Dan Carpenter, now Biodiversity Officer with Bracknell Forest council and a leading light in the Earthworm Society of Britain, looks on as people identify the earthworms that they collected earlier in the day.
The building, semi-unwrapped
Not sure about that orange paint colour
Finally, our new building continues to progress. I looked around the inside about two weeks ago and things are coming on. Gas lines are in the labs and some walls have been painted. Not sure about the orange colour some people have chosen but each to their own. Up to now the building has been wrapped in polythene, rather like one of those modern art installations but now the plastic is slowly coming of as the building gradually and seductively unveils itself.
Next up is another trip to Diamond. This could be a trying visit. I have to get across London during todays tube strike and then take a Great Western train to Didcot which is also subject to industrial action. Then, rather than staying on site I have to stay two nights in Didcot travel lodge before moving to the onsite accommodation on Saturday whilst a massive open day (c. 10000 people expected) is happening all across site - mind you they are promising dinosaurs and volcanoes so it could be good!

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