Shrewsbury School

Fourth Form Academic Extension Science Trip to Warwick University

Friday 4 December 2015

A group of 40 Fourth Form scientists visited Warwick University last week for a day of inspiring science lectures.

The lecture which began our day, ‘How to Hack Your Home’, was not actually about hacking our homes. Instead, Danielle George from the University of Manchester talked about how humans 150 years ago had imagined future technologies that came true and that we now use today, like the iWatch and wireless communication. She also talked about the cosmic background radiation in the universe. This is the ‘oldest’ temperature we can detect. By making maps showing the temperature changes, we can see back in time and know more about the beginning of the universe.

She then used an experiment showing how we can bend light to explain how wireless communication works. She put some water into a bucket that had a hole near the bottom. She shone a light through the hole from inside the bucket. As the water came out in a curve, the light bent with the water. By proving that light waves can therefore be bent she explained that information can be carried by light and transmitted along optical fibres, making wireless communication is possible.

The second lecture was given by Greg Foot, who talked about the science of high altitude survival. He is a science presenter and communicator who has been to Mount Everest. He showed us the equipment climbers need to stay alive at such high altitudes, including sunglasses with the strongest protection, gloves and a suit which keeps him warm.

He talked about the thin air at high altitude caused by air pressure. Then he moved on to topics about oxygen, air and mountain climbing. He talked about how genetics can affect human beings’ reaction to their environment. He told us that a friend of his who also went to Mount Everest had a very low oxygen content when he was on the mountain; it was only 30% when he was at the very top of Mount Everest, compared with the normal percentage at sea level of around 99%. However, his friend’s body didn’t react as badly as his did in a high altitude environment; in fact his friend was one of the most energetic ones. This was explained as the genetic effect on humans; some people are just born to be better at high altitude.

To prove the effect caused by genetics, he sprayed some chemicals onto pieces of paper and asked volunteers to smell them. To some people the smells were disgusting, while others smelt nothing. Genes in those people’s bodies determined what they thought about the smell.
Suky Ouyang (MSH)

After our lunch break we headed back to the lecture theatre to listen to a lecture on tea. We were all a little confused about what this would consist of but ready to find out! The lecturer for this talk was the man who had presented the whole day’s events - Nic Harrigan. His unbelievable enthusiasm for talking about tea blew us away. He began by saying, “Tea bags may seem innocent enough, but within each of these unsuspecting heroes lies some surprisingly important physics”.

The talk was aimed at showing the hall full of teenagers how crucial physics can be in anything we do. Mr Harrigan spoke passionately about both his tea and physics, explaining to the audience different aspects of physics, such as the Moiré pattern, that are used when having a cup of tea.
Lizzie Ware (MSH)

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