The Royal Society’s Summer Science Exhibition

Last night, one of our team, Sally Webb, got the chance to go to the Royal Society’s Black Tie Soirée at the Summer Science Exhibition. Here are her own thoughts on the evening and what she enjoyed.

When my Dad told me I could go to the Soirée with him, I was so excited. Not only did I get to dress up and enjoy the free food (which was fantastic), but I also got to meet some of the most influential scientists of our time. I spent ages looking at the website trying to decide what exhibits I wanted to go and see, but with 16 choices this was really difficult.

The event itself was held at the Royal Society, which is a fantastic building off the Mall, filled with photos and books all to do with science. Walking round, you notice the different scientists with their knighthoods, OBEs and CBEs round their necks. I met the famous YouTube sensation Professor Martyn Poliakoff from the University of Nottingham who gave me a copy of the world’s smallest periodic table – engraved on his hair! When we sat down for dinner, I found myself sat next to Hermann Hauser and his family. At the time, I did not know exactly who he was, but I told my boyfriend (a mathematician) and he couldn’t believe it saying he was a legend. Whilst sat next to him, both he and his son calculated how many atoms were in a kilogram of silicon in their heads, something that would take me hours to do.

As for the exhibits, there are 16 different ones to attend and with 3 hours to get round them all there was no way this was going to happen, so we just went for the ones my Dad and I were most interested in. I learnt all about the Higgs boson and how next year they may find super symmetry, something which currently has not been found. We got to see ourselves portrayed onto a screen as dark matter illustrating how gravity curves. We visited the Pinch of Salt exhibit by UEA which shows you how they have created a seaglider using buoyancy which can take accurate measurements at different depths within the sea. There was an exhibit by NPL where I got to speak to Michael de Podesta who is trying to determine new methods of calibrating using air waves and most importantly the research how we are going to measure a kilogram in the future as the standard mass is decaying and losing weight.

The British Geological Survey had an exhibit about the ice sheet Virkisjökull in Iceland which is receding. I spoke to the photographer who said they only get to visit the ice sheet twice a year, but have sensors across it as well as a camera which takes a photo every day so they can create time-lapse video of the sheet receding. In addition to this they also have a camera which takes 3D images of the ice sheet so they can determine where it is melting most and hope to determine why.

The University of Cambridge had an exhibit about Electric Carbon, something I knew nothing about yesterday afternoon. They are creating carbon nanotube wires which can be used for power lines. In theory it could replace copper and aluminium in our everyday devices, making them much more light-weight and efficient. What makes this research different to any other in the area is that the nanotubes are able to conduct electricity and so could be used across the world in the future.

My personal favourite was the exhibit by UCL on Ice Worlds. It was fascinating to here that ice works like a rock on other planets and moons. The same way we have volcanoes, these worlds have ice versions. Instead of pumping lava into the atmosphere they pump a kind of slush puppy. There are also geysers which emit water vapour. What amazed me most however, being a meteorologist, is that some of them have weather, such as Triton, Neptunes largest moon. We have the ability to research the weather, atmosphere and geology on these worlds and then apply that knowledge to understand our own planet better.

The Summer Science Exhibition is on at the Royal Society for the next 3 days (until 7th July) and I strongly recommend it to anyone who has a free afternoon, hour or evening. Even if you just learn one new thing, it’s an experience you won’t have anywhere else.

Sally Webb

Sally Webb is a meteorologist living in Essex and working in London at MeteoGroup UK. She tweets @WeatherWebb and forecasts at www.weatherwebb.co.uk (The comments on this site are her own and do not necessarily represent MeteoGroup’s opinions or strategies)

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24 Comments

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