Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Fulfilling a dream - presenting in the Ri Faraday Theatre

It's probably an understatement to say I was a latecomer to knowing about the Royal Institution. I watched my first Christmas Lectures on TV at the ripe old age of 24 - by which point I was already thoroughly engaged with the process of science communication myself (not to mention that I'd moved across the world to do a PhD in science at the time).

Unlike many people who have come to take this amazing science spectacle for granted, I was truly amazed by what I saw. Science being presented on TV and people loving it. Not just people who are scientists themselves but loads of people will gather around the TV over Christmas and watch at least one of these lectures. The Christmas Lectures aren't just a small thing that happens each year - they are a huge thing, they are something of a British institution and I've met many scientists who attribute their interest in science to watching these lectures with their families when they were young.

The people I was with joked at the time that maybe one day I'd be the one presenting in the famous Faraday Theatre. Naturally, I laughed -- the idea was absurd that someone like me would get that chance. Someone who'd mucked about on stage in Australia doing science shows for kids and spent 9 months working in a science museum. To someone like me it would be an absolute dream to present in one of the world's most famous venues of both science and science communication.

Well, ladies and gentleman... it appears dreams can come true. Today was a BIG day. Today I presented my public lecture called 'Accelerated Dreams' at the Royal Institution -- in the famous Faraday Theatre! And to top it off, it was a full house, even the seats in the "gods" were full! I took this sneaky photo on my phone just so I could prove it as people were still filing in!

The event was for the U3A - another wonderful organization if you haven't heard of them, and I was one of three speakers for the day. The lecture seemed to go down really really well, all of my demonstrations worked (well almost, the faraday cage was a bit dodgy but got the point across) and I got so many fantastic comments and interesting questions afterwards. I couldn't see many of the audience because the stage lights were quite bright (that's a throwback to my theatre days I didn't expect!) but the reactions afterwards were more than worth it. It was clear that people were totally excited by what I had to say, which was such a great feeling!

It just goes to show that you should never believe you can't do something - if you work hard enough you can achieve anything you want to. Which seems to be my theme at the moment as another thing I never though I could do is to run a half marathon - which I'm about to do on Sunday.

I finished my lecture today with a quick slide saying I was running a half marathon and raising money for the IoP for Africa programme and to my surprise I was inundated with donations! (I'd put the URL up but these lovely people wanted to give me cash then and there!) So I've managed to collect about another £80 or more towards my fundraising goal, which is fabulous - even if it was totally unexpected!

Thankfully today's experience isn't a one-off, as next month I'm back at the Royal Institution for another event. Next month's show will require a bit more preparation - I'll be presenting a schools show for 9-12 year olds twice in one day. So it looks like all that experience with primary school shows with the MUPPETS crew in Melbourne will come in handy! The show is called 'The Need for Speed' -- I'll write a seperate post about that once the event is over. Before my lecture today I spent the morning in the Ri prep room threshing out demos with the amazing Andy Marmery - isn't his prep room amazing!?

I'm only sorry that today I had to run off before the third speaker today because my day doesn't end here...

Oh no, when it rains it pours - I have just taken a taxi across London to my hotel to get glammed up for an evening with the Royal Commission (who provide my research fellowship) to meet HRH The Princess Royal. (I told you today was a BIG day).

For now though, I'm going to relax in my hotel room - and I'm so glad that the UK has tea-making facilities in the room - I REALLY needed a cuppa while I re-apply makeup and sort out chipped painted toenails (who said physics wasn't glamorous?) What I really need is a glass of wine to celebrate, but I can't have one because I'm running a half marathon on Sunday! But I'll still be celebrating what has been an amazing experience. It's a busy, busy time I can tell you... *crashes out*

How it happened (if you're interested):
The invite to speak at the Ri came about after I was invited to film a short piece to camera with one of my demonstrations for the DemoJam web-series for the new RiChannel. That in turn came about through connections I'd made through the IoP Communicators Group and from presenting at the Big Bang Fair in 2010. During the day of filming for DemoJam The lovely staff at the Ri popped in for a chat and that was that - they asked if I'd like to present both today and again next month.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Measuring the speed of light in 30 seconds

I finally discovered a quick and easy way to measure the speed of light - and turned it into a quick 30 second video for the British Science Association's 'Prove it' competition as I thought it fit the theme "our world in motion" quite well.

Please "like" it on by watching it on YouTube (you'll have to click through) and give it the "thumbs up" button to vote for it & maybe I'll win a camcorder!

(I obviously need a camcorder - I had to record it in my office using my iMac while trying not to disturb my colleagues in neighbouring offices, but I hope you like it anyway.)