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x-change blog - day 2

Find out what happened at day 2 of the x-change with Rachel Harris

Welcome back to day two of the x-change at the British Science Festival in Newcastle. The x-change team have once again got together the best bits of the festival for another jam-packed show!

First up today we asked that oh-so-English of questions, ‘What’s happening to the weather?’. Before giving the Joseph Lister Award Lecture, Hayley Fowler, a Professor in climate change at Newcastle University, gave us an insight into why the weather appears to be changing with more extremes in flooding and temperature. She also shared a sustainable solution to flooding with the aid of recycled plastic and a watering can!

Ahead of presenting the Charles Lyell Award Lecture we heard about the the ocean's top predators from Jonathan Houghton. His work includes the study of UK species including basking sharks, leatherback turtles and the little known ocean sunfish. Jonathan explained the power of technology in understanding these species, having recently attached cameras to basking sharks! As well as the implications of his work not only on species understanding but also climate change.

Next up we learnt about Newcastle’s resident sea bird colony from Director of the National History Society of Northumbria, James Littlewood. James brought along a stuffed kittiwake and explained how they differ from seagulls, their love of Newcastle and how to keep these wonderful birds happy residents in the city centre.

Half way through the show we were getting a bit peckish so we invited science viking Terry Harvey Chadwick onto the stage to distribute some Pringles using the power of hydrogen and oxygen!

Next to drop in was Antonia Hamilton, lecturer in cognitive neuroscience at University College London, to explain what happens in our heads when we acquire a new skill. After learning how to dance or play an instrument our brain changes and understanding this so called ‘plasticity’ can help us decipher how children learn and what happens when this process goes wrong.


Our last guest Andrea Dolfini joined the stage with a host of exciting replica and original Bronze Age weaponry. Helped by his PhD student, Andrea explained his experimental approach to understanding Bronze Age combat with replica weapons, providing a valuable insight into what really happened in a prehistoric battle.

We rounded up the show by reading our favourite responses to today's x-change competition question: ‘what science fiction invention would you like to be real and why?’. After some amusing uses of teleportation, our winning answer was to be able to use stargates to jump between different infinite worlds where anything would be possible.

We’re back again tomorrow with another lunchtime filled with festival highlights!

See you then!

Rachel (@NeuroRach) and the X-change Team