Science Interviews


Sun, 29th Mar 2009

South Africa Escapades

Meera Senthillingham

Listen Now    Download as mp3 from the show The History of Medicine

Diana - This week, Chris, Meera, Ben and Dave are all in Grahamstown in South Africa for ďScifest AfricaĒ while weíre stuck here in Cambridge.  While the lads were doing explosive science demonstrations for packed houses, Meera has been able to see some of the events going on throughout the week, and she joins us now... Hello, Meera

Africa LogoMeera - Hello Ė Iíve been practising how to say hello in Afrikaans Ė do you want to hear it?

Diana - Yeah, go on.

Meera - Goeie aand. Itís Ė you know the phlegm sound? Itís goeie aand. Iím hoping people listening arenít going to be offended by the way Iím saying it. Thatís how Iíve learned to say hello.

Diana - Hello! Tell us about this festival. Just how big is it?

Meera - Itís actually really big. Itís a lot bigger than I thought it was going to be before I got here. Itís in a town called Grahamstown which isnít a particularly large town and itís not really well-known if you donít live in South Africa. Itís in the Eastern Cape and itís actually a bit like Cambridge. Itís quite a small town, you can walk around everywhere but itís got a really good, prestigious university, Rhodes University as part of it which is hosting a lot of things to do with the festival. Itís a small town but theyíre expecting up to 60,000 visitors to come here just for the science festival and children are travelling from all over the country. Theyíre sitting in buses for like 12 hours and 7 hours just to get here to see all the different scientific activities going on.

Diana - I hear you guys are something of a celebrity down there Ė what sort of events are on at the festival?

Meera - Thereís a whole variety of events. Yes, the guys are celebrities. Iím not a celebrity because Iím not in the show with them but they have been asked for their autograph. Also people are asking for pictures with them which is quite interesting. Their showís even a hit here. Itís been sold-out the first two shows and so 900 people came to see them do their thing. Theyíve been doing great activities, things like that to do with light. Ben does a brilliant joke at the beginning of the show where heís showing how UV works. Heís drawn a skeleton onto his body with a highlighter pen and then they dim down all of the lights and put UV lights on him and then obviously heís then glowing because the UV light is being absorbed and reflected out as visible light. The kids just roar for this Ė they actually give large rounds of applause just when they see this effect. Theyíre blowing up balloons and exploding bottles of liquid nitrogen. Itís going down very well.

Diana - Fantastic. Are we going to hear about any of this next week?

Meera - Yes, Iím sure weíre going to hear about what theyíve been doing as part of their show as well as them doing this particular show Iíve been roaming around doing interview with various lectures and workshops that are talking place. Thatís going to be the material for next weekís show. Today I actually went to a game reserve to see some very cool animals which will all be part of next weekís show. Iíve been learning how to glass blow and I have been out to an estuary as well to learn about the species that you find in estuaries because theyíre very interesting ecosystems.

Diana - I hear you had a go on a kudu horn Ė what was that like?

Meera - It was interesting Ė I didnít do it very well. The person showing it to me did it a lot better but the whole kudu thing came about because part of my game reserve trip today I managed to witness a cheetah eating a kudu. Apparently you donít get to see that very often Ė especially as I went at midday which is the worst time of day Ė completely Ė to go to a game reserve because everything sleeping and hiding under trees. It did get to see that. The kudu horn is a very interesting sound. I think they used to use it as a good form of communication.

Diana - Iím not jealous at all. Have you made a trip to any of the vineyards yet?

Meera - I think theyíre mostly in the Western Cape but I have tasted the products of the vineyards, anyway.


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