Size Matters – Royal Institution Christmas Lectures preview

Mark Miodownik is going to present the 2010 Royal Institution Christmas Lectures, and I took my daughter to see a preview on Thursday evening. He was an immediate hit with the audience – oh for science teachers in our schools with his ability to carry an audience of children (and adults).

I don’t imagine many of the children would have hurried to see him if he’d been advertised by his job title – he’s a materials scientist and is Head of the Materials Research Group in the Natural and Mathematical Sciences School at King’s College London.

He’s also a very entertaining speaker, and gave many demonstrations of interesting materials – including non-Newtonian liquid, ferrofluids (liquid until a magnetic field is passed through them, when they become a solid), and cryogenic ceramic-induced levitation. The subject of the Christmas lectures is ‘Size Matters’ – i.e. scale, and he used a microscope to show everyday things at various magnifications. His delight in the beauty of the miscroscopic was obvious, and from the wows from the audience he managed to impart some of that delight to them.

The whole thing left me hoping for more (especially of the chocolate), and I won’t have that long to wait – I’m going back with two of my children for one of the lectures in three weeks’ time. Tickets have long since sold out but the three lectures (Why Elephants Can’t Dance, Why Chocolate Melts and Jet Planes Don’t and Why Mountains Are So Small) will be broadcast on television over Christmas on BBC4; if you’re wanting to be astonished and inspired by science and entertained at the same time I recommend you watch it.

Update: the recording of lecture two was an interesting experience.

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