"The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don't."

- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy -

The Royal Society

By Sue Griffiths

It’s been a while since I last went to the Royal Society, which is a shame as its lectures are fascinating and feature high brow scientific topics presented in an accessible, understandable and enjoyable way. They put on something a little different recently – the Summer Science Exhibition 2005 which took place from 4th July for four days.

This was an exhibition of science related subject matter and included stands on advances in medical science which illustrated subjects such as joint replacements, devices to aid patients with heart damage, and the way robots are being designed for use in surgery. There was a marine research stand, which featured two glass tubes filled with water and each containing a model of a whale. When you pressed a lever forward (and it took some effort!) the water pressure rose and the whale sank. Proving that I refuse to grow up I had to take up the challenge and get the whale to the very bottom of the tube! There was also a section of the stand where you could listen to the different sounds of various types of dolphins and whales – it was fascinating to hear how the songs of each of them differed. Space research was touched upon with the Huygens spacecraft which was sent to explore the surface of Saturn’s largest moon and send back images relating to the surface and environment. There was also the opportunity to examine the behaviour of galaxies via computer simulations, where you could adjust the settings and see what the impacts were when two galaxies merged.

While the stands were interesting, and the freebies were cool too (loads of free pens, pencils and keyrings on offer) what really made the event was the sheer enthusiasm of the people manning the stalls. The interactivity of the exhibits also meant that the subject matter was that much more engaging. Rather than just look at something behind a glass box as you might do in a museum, you had the opportunity to hear, touch and see examples of the subject matter that was being conveyed. For example, there was a stand on pulsars and how research is taking place to find out more about them, and while the subject matter as interesting enough, what really put it into context was a short 3D film showing pulsars and their activity in space. There was also plenty of reading material on offer, too, which was ideal for my journey back home after a couple of pints in the nearby Captain's Cabin with Tony and Jonathan!

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