Ever since 1991, The Royal Society – the independent scientific academy of the UK and the Commonwealth – has welcomed visitors into its halls to share scientific research with the public. This year, set over two floors of the Society’s beautiful white stone building just off Pall Mall, the great and the good from Britain’s top academic institutions are busy presenting a dizzying range of topics, with plenty to interest the geographically minded.
From Bristol University’s research into earthquake tremors and their effect on nuclear power plants, to the University of Cambridge’s advocacy of skyscrapers made from sustainable timber, today’s scientists clearly have their eye firmly on the future, with the ongoing climate challenge and the design of our cities particularly prominent. The exhibition provides a unique chance to probe the minds of these leading scientists, who might otherwise be hidden in a laboratory.
Most exhibits are interactive and geared towards to both adults and children. Attempt to ‘be’ the artificial intelligence behind a driverless car, fly a drone around an interactive oil rig or attempt to build a structure that can withstand an earthquake. On Saturday and Sunday, the Little House of Science will also be on hand in the Kids’ Zone to answer such pressing questions as: How did the universe start?
A further wander around the exhibits reveals that several are preoccupied with the future of medicine: travel through a virtual tumour using VR technology, explore the infra-red device which could detect signs of brain injury in newborns, or speak to the team from the University of Nottingham developing biomaterials that can coat medical devices and reduce hospital infections.
Space travel also features heavily. An Open University team is presenting its lab analysis of lunar samples; scientists led by the University of Leicester are explaining the physics behind the BepiColombo mission, Europe’s first missions to Mercury; and astronomers from the SETI Institute are searching for extra-terrestrial intelligence while questioning the risks of doing so.
Amid it all are plenty of other exhibits that defy categorisation. A team from Goldsmiths is showing off its research into synaesthesia and the deeper implications it could have on the wider world, while scientists from Lancaster University are explaining the benefits of their advanced laboratory – dubbed the quietest place on Earth and colder than deep space.
Throughout the week there’s a series of additional events and talks, with most taking place on Saturday and Sunday. Hands-on events tackle the exploration of Saturn, laser cut cars, 3D printing and more; while a series of 15-minute talks provide an introduction to doping in sport, monitoring air quality and the chemistry of mummification.
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