Pints and Science in Manchester

I just received word of a pretty unusual science focussed drinking event in the glorious bars of Manchester. Or maybe that is supposed to be a drinking focussed science event…..I’m not sure. 12 fascinating talks by scientists have been organised by a great team of folks and will be taking place in your favourite beer serving establishments.

Check out Pint of Science 2014 for times, topics and venues.

And remember, consume your beer with a critical mind and your science in moderation……….erm………….


Resources for School Teachers

To maintain the resources required to feed myself as my stipend quickly runs out I have been picking up extra work going into schools to talk about chemistry. I have done shows with primary school children which have been amazing fun, and spent are fair amount of time with A level students making paracetamol and talking about university.

As well as having a great time, I have had the opportunity to speak to teachers, and it is apparent – especially in primary schools – that there is a lack of experience and background  in ‘science’.  A consequence of this is that teachers find it more difficult to exploit the curriculum in a fun manner, and to engage children in science in the way they want to, and as a result I am often asked suggestions of fun and educational experiments that can be done in schools.

To try to address this I have collated a couple of sites that I have come across, and as the list grows, hopefully this will become a significant resource, and a useful first point of call for teachers.

Click here, or the Resources, Links and Blog Roll above.

How to do a Radio Interview

It has taken me a while to get this up for a couple of reasons. Mainly it was that I am easily distracted, and after I discovered I could not put it on youtube without an image, I put off searching for alternatives. Secondly, it did not quite go as I hoped and I was a bit annoyed with myself – maybe unfairly – but you can judge for yourselves.  Anyway, by putting it off a little the annoyance has abated, and having discovered soundcloud, it is now available for all to listen.

To be honest it was not terrible, but it certainly was not what I was expecting. In reality it was never going to go to plan completely, because secretly I was planning to change the reputation of chemistry worldwide in four minutes on local radio. I had as you can see, set myself a very big challenge, but what the hell; I am a firm believer in aiming high!

My plans for a discussion on chemistry and society were out the window as soon as I arrived: the format was chemistry vs physics, which is COOLER? This is not a discussion I would typically validate because it does not not often lead to a positive outcome, but when you are faced with Andy Crane (of the broom cupboard fame) and 4 minutes to change the image of chemistry, you have to go for it.

After the Rocky theme tune introduction the gauntlet was laid down:

Why is chemistry cool?

A little bit of panic set in as I tried to validate the position of chemistry in the world, tried to put in a couple of little anecdotes, and basically not sound like a fool. It was okay, but if I had had just a touch of media training, or, had I done an internship in the House of Commons, it would have been better; I should have known to just ignore the actual question, and answer the question I wanted – that is how you do a radio interview! Anyway, as they say, que sera sera.

Click here for the interview.

The most fun I have ever had

Last week I had my first trip to a primary school since I was eleven years old. As I still consider myself child like the vast majority of the time, the realisation that it was nearly twenty years since I had been in a building that is governed by a bell, and has a climbing frame in the hall, was a bit of a shock. No matter though, it only took me ten seconds to feel completely at home – communicating with people on my level, screaming at loud bangs, and laughing at embarrassing adults – perfect.

The reason for my trip was to observe a “Solids, Liquids and Gases” show put on by the University of Manchester. The show visits primary schools, and behind the transparent veil of learning, we blow things up (amongst other things)! I had such a good time. Cutting edge research has nothing on hydrogen fueled rockets, jet engines, CO2 powered bangers, and shattering Jelly Babies into a million pieces.

The pictures do not do it justice but here are a few anyway:

























On Wednesday I have my first attempt at presenting and doing the experiments myself. I think I will be in my element – bu dum ching.

On a mildly more serious note, these shows are an amazing way of getting kids interested in science beyond an often tedious curriculum. I am sure universities nationally will run such events, so if you are a primary school teacher (and if not, please pass this on to any you know), take a punt and give them a call. You will not regret it.

For an idea of some of the experiments here are videos via, though without howling children the excitement isn’t quite as intense. [Note: These videos will make you want to put a grape in a microwave – DO NOT TRY THIS.]

Finally a plug for a great resource I have just found out about. The RSC NW Trust has collaborated with Catalyst and with  to create a DVD of simple science experiments for primary school teachers. You can get a copy of this for FREE from, just scroll to the bottom right for details. I have not seen this yet myself, so I will let you know what I think when I get my hands on a copy.

Please pass this on to anybody for whom you might think it is appropriate. Teaching science to young children well is critical to maintaining and developing an interest for the future. Think about it, was primary science education much fun?