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x-change blog - day 3


Wednesday’s lunchtime show was full of excellent bitesized chunks of science goodness! Today we had another diverse show full of electric shocks, ugly animals, computers installed into walls and how we can use a family game to explain Newton’s laws of motion...


Up first on the show we had John Lazarus, an evolutionary biologist from Newcastle University, who is trying to answer the question “Why have we evolved to cooperate?” In the show John used the division of 10p coins and two volunteers from the audience to explain the reasons why people are kind to others. In today’s society we can see the benefits of this through things such as sharing the housework rather than hunting in a group to bring home dinner.


Next up we welcomed the education scientist and innovator; Sugata Mitra. He is the Star Speaker for this year’s festival and it was his research and experiments that inspired the book Q&A, which was adapted into Danny Boyle’s film “Slumdog Millionaire”. Sugata’s original “hole-in-the-wall” experiments took place back in 1999 and involved the installation of a single computer into a wall in a New Delhi urban slum. These computers gave children the resources for long-term learning. During the show he talked about how this kind of research can impact the future of education worldwide. Sugata even suggested that perhaps the focus of exams should be to teach kids how to look up answers to questions really quickly, rather than mark down grades for incorrect spelling.


One of the stars of the Victorian Science Spectacular - Tim Cockerill - joined us today on the x-change stage to tell us about science in the Victorian times. Before the impacts of new and exciting technologies were realised, Tim informed us that Victorian society looked at these discoveries as entertainment. You could even find science demonstrations alongside Freak Shows in the fairground! The Victorians believed that electricity could cure any disease or ailment one might have, which we tested. Using an old-fashioned Victorian shock box, Tim gave Richard an electric shock with much yelping and leaping around the stage!


Elin Roberts, Head of Public Engagement at Newcastle’s Centre for Life showed us that science demos certainly shouldn’t be thought of as simple tricks! Pulling a tablecloth from under a carefully balanced Jenga tower was a great way to show Newton’s first law of motion in action. The tower remained completely upright and even got a few cheers from the audience.


The British Science Festival aims to get members of the public from all over the country to engage with science. Our next guest Imran Khan, Chief Executive of the British Science Association, talked to us about the importance of sharing science with the public and how to engage the public in the scientific process- not just the breakthroughs.


Noel Jackson, Head of Education from Newcastle’s Centre for Life, revealed exactly why giraffes have long necks; with a little help from a giraffe model balanced on top of a speaker. We also got the audience up on stage again to help perform a demo using Blubber Gloves, ice and all kinds of animals to demonstrate how marine creatures have the best insulation!


Finally we chatted to Simon Watt, President for Life at the Ugly Animal Preservation Society, about his campaign to save the world’s ugliest animals! The idea behind his work is to make people realise that it’s not just the impressive, beautiful creatures we always hear of that need conserving, there are plenty of less glamorous animals that need conserving too.


During every show we ask the audience and our Twitter followers to take part in a little competition. Today’s question followed on from the the animal theme: What would be your ultimate animal hybrid - or chimera - and why? We had some excellent suggestions - many trying to solve some of the world’s problems including the spread of malaria, efficient air travel and mail delivery. However the audience clap-o-meter decided that our winning idea was to combine a hedgehog with a whippet so hedgehogs could avoid becoming road kill! Brilliant!


See you tomorrow for our final show!

Alison and all the x-change team


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