Science Interviews


Sun, 28th Oct 2007

The Manchester Science Festival

David Price, Science Made Simple
Johnny Ball

Listen Now    Download as mp3 from the show Cloning, Chimeras and Stem Cells

We are very proud to announce that our very own Chris Smith has become the first person to win the Josh award, a new award recognizing innovation in science communication, awarded by the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry.  This took place as part of the first Manchester Science Festival, and so Ben Valsler and Dave Ansell went to Manchester to join in the festivities!

Manchester Science FestivalBen -   The 20th-28th of October 2007 marks the Manchester Science Festival.  And of course, where thereís science, there will be Naked Scientists, so weíve come to Manchester Piccadilly train station where weíre trying out a few of our favourite Kitchen Science experiments of the unsuspecting people of Manchester.  So Dave, what have we got lined up for people here today?

Dave Ansell -   All sorts of experiments, one of them is putting a Pyrex bowl in some vegetable oil, and it disappears, which actually goes down really well with adults.  Weíve also got a microwave which weíve been putting all the things in it which you really want to do at home, but you really canít.  Weíve been putting in soap, which expands and turns into a great big pile of foam; putting in a light bulb, which glows purple and other strange colours; and weíve also been putting in wire wool which gives loads of cool sparks.

Ben -   And are people enjoying it?  Obviously theyíve come here for a reason, theyíve come to get a train, they havenít come here to do some experiments.  Do you think theyíre enjoying this interruption?

Dave -   It seems like quite a good way of getting the people who have got half an hour to wait for a train, and we can distract them for a bit.  Weíve had lots of people here, many of them said they didnít enjoy science in school, but they seem to be enjoying this!

Ben -   Iím here with David [Price] from Science Made Simple, and heís also doing a few little science experiments here.  So what are you doing as part of the science festival?

David Price -   Today, really, weíre having a look at the science of sound.  So we have a Ďglovophoneí here that sounds a bit like this:

[The glovophone gives a low, rasping bass note, a bit like a bassoon] Listen here:

Ben -   Now a glovophone, by the looks of it, is a vinyl glove like you might see in a doctors office with a long, brightly coloured tube sticking off the bottom, and there seems to be a plastic drinking straw sticking into one of the fingers.  Thatís actually quite nice, it sounds a bit like a bassoon.

David Price -   And the nice thing about it is at one end you get a lot of vibrations that people can actually feel, you put your finger on top of it and itís really tickly Ė you can feel the vibrations.  And out of the other end we have an opening where the sound comes out, so itís linking vibration and sound, sound and vibration.

Ben -   What else have you got to explain things here?

David Price -   Well what we have here is a, well, itís a recording of Shirley Bassey, but maybe as youíve never heard Shirley before.  Iíll just set her upÖ

Ben -   Okay, well from what I can tell this is an old vinyl record and it seems to have a VW camper van on the top.  Now, Iíve got a record player at home, I quite enjoy listening to vinyl, but Iíve never listened to vinyl using a camper vanÖ

David Price -   What we have here is a camper van, with a little stylus in the bottom of it.  Itís powered by a battery to run around the record so the needle, thatís the stylus, is in the grooves of the record.  Itís got a little speaker in the top of the van, so itís a miniature record player.

Ben -   So instead of the record turning on a turntable, the camper van actually rotates around the record to play the music for you?

David Price -   Absolutely, so Iíll set it up now and weíll see if we can listen to a little bit of Shirley BasseyÖ

[A scratchy, slowed down recording of Shirley Bassey plays Ė almost totally unrecognizable!] Listen here:

Ben -   Well itís certainly workingÖ Iím not sure thatís how Shirley really wanted people to listen to her though.

David Price -   No, no, probably not how she wanted us to listen to her.  One of the reasons it sounds a bit strange is that your record player at home knows to speed up going round the outside of the record, and slow down as it gets towards the centre of the record, a shorter distance.

Ben -   So when itís towards the outside of the record you have so much further to go for one rotation, so it needs to do that a bit quicker.

David Price -   Absolutely, absolutely.  But our little camper van here unfortunately doesnít know that it has to do that, and so the sound starts to sound really, really weird as you get closer into the centre.

Ben -   Well I think itís probably best that we listen with CDís at home, but David, thank you ever so much and I hope you enjoy the rest of the festival.

David Price -   Thank you very much indeed, thank you.

Chris Receiving AwardBen -   Also at the Manchester Science Festival is Living legend Johnny Ball.  Now Johnny, do you think itís important that people get the opportunity to engage with science at events like this?

Johnny Ball -   I think they do [engage people].  I donít think they should all be naked, as you are; you know, Iíd like to keep my underpants on!  But itís very important that we engage them.  The difficulty is in engaging people who arenít interested in science.  You can always get the people who are already interested in science in, and there are many more that really would love it if we could only nurture them in and light them up.  Itís a scientific world, itís a technological world, itís an engineering world and itís a magical world and all of this gets better.  We do, scientifically, improve n every aspect of science every year and weíve got to tell more people about it, and bring more people in to be the next generation to continue the successes.

Ben -   Weíve been doing a few demonstrations at Manchester Piccadilly today, is there any particular little science experiment thatís been your favourite to do?

Johnny Ball -   Yes, I have one, and you can do this with either a billiard cue or a normal sweeping brush.  Put your fingers about a yard or a meter apart, your hands outstretched about a meter apart, and get somebody, you can do it, to put the brush or the billiard cue on the two fingers.  The head, or the thick end is at one end, and the light end is at the other end.  So when your fingers come in itís going to overbalance, isnít it?

Ben -   I would expect it would overbalance, yesÖ

Johnny Ball -   So close your eyes and slowly bring your hands together.  Youíll be amazed what happens because youíll still be doing it when your fingers touch in the middle. Explain that!

Ben -   Thatís fantastic!  Well we will have to do that in Kitchen Science soon, but thank you ever so much for chatting to us.

Johnny Ball -   Pleasure!

Ben -   Now Michael and Charlie here have had a go at all of our experiments.  So what do you think about having science experiments in somewhere like a train station?

Michael -   Itís very interesting because people just while theyíre walking past from out of a train, can have a look at a science experiment and go ďOoh look at that!Ē  Itís interesting, so people who wouldnít normally go to something like a science fair walk past and if itís interesting they can just have a quick look.

Ben -   So do you think that this sort of thing would encourage you to do more science at school?

Charlie -   Yeah, I reckon so.  If youíre interested in it youíre going to want to carry on and possibly even do it after GCSE and do it for A-Level and stuff like that.  Itís really interesting if you know what itís like.

Ben -   Well thatís it for the Naked Scientists at Manchester Piccadilly train station as part of the Manchester Science Festival, but next time youíre waiting for a train, just think of the science experiments you could be doing!


Subscribe Free

Related Content

Not working please enable javascript
Powered by UKfast
Genetics Society