Saturday, 13 November 2010

Days 1 and 2 of the Manchester Science Festival 2010

Finally, it is here! Day one saturday 23rd october. I have so much to say already. Day one was very exciting and great fun for me. I did both the morning shift (9am start) and the afternoon session so basically I was there from 9 until 4.30pm ;) I arrived early and was keen to check out the new look MOSI which has spent many recent months undergoing refurbishment. It looks wonderful and happily still recognisable. This year we are meeting up every morning in the new Lovell suite to be allocated our event. When I got there, plenty of volunteer’s were there already and I got my first glimpse of this years t-shirt. Bright green! One of the event managers whom I haven’t seen since last year remembered me. The ‘Hi Sarah’ was a nice surprise. I saw a few familiar faces, folks I’d met last year. I wondered if I would. Nice to see them again and so many new STEM Ambassadors. So I received my festival bag and t-shirt along with festival info and proceeded to collect some snacks and bottles of water to see me throughout the day. Time for a coffee and a chat before our general briefing. A high profile event which is in fact headlining this years festival is the Super Kamiokande Sonic Boom! (‘Super K’). I hoped I would at least get to see this sometime. I needn’t have worried. I was told I would be going to the Super K event today and be there for the whole day, so I was happy already! This event was only there for the first half of the festival and the venue was at the Manchester Metropolitan University which I had never been to before so I was curious about this too. The real Super K in Japan is designed to detect Neutrino’s. It looks like this
The replica of this at the festival was made using 1000 gold helium balloons to represent the photomultiplier tubes (PMT). Passengers (representing neutrinos!) were rowed along a pool of water in a small rowing boat with a scientist who explained the physics of and the nature of the Super K project. 
The team. Why is my suit undone?

When we first arrived we were of course shown around and briefed by the lady, Nelly, who had designed this replica and then allocated our roles. We were to be the security team which mean’t wearing tyvek suits, wellies and hard hats. Our passengers would be kitted out with this stuff too.

I look more mad scientist than a mean one.

As well as the Super K itself there was a mezzanine floor which was a balcony really so that people could view the installation from above. Also there were a series of short films and a live link to Japan. Alas I never got to see that. There were talks also given by some of the scientists there. We had to do some role playing and were told we had to be unfriendly to the people. I wasn’t entirely comfortable with that and I feel my fellow STEM Ambassadors thought the same thing. I was the oarperson which mean’t sitting at the back of the boat and simulating the rowing motion with my plastic oar. This was great fun and mean’t I heard a lot of science. I couldn’t really row because the water was too shallow and was ultra pure which is apparently dangerous if we touch it anyway. I’m sceptical about that lol. Every 10 minutes the sonic boom went off. This was actually a light simulation of the sonic boom. As the oarperson I was to be the meanest of all. I wasn’t allowed to smile at all or speak to any members of the public. Fortunately only 2 families asked me questions, just after lunch. I felt abit mean but better than being told off by Nelly! 

There was a film crew there the whole time and I was excited about either being on the news this evening or ending up on Youtube. However, it turns out it was for french television so there’s a good chance I’ll never see it. That’s probably for the best lol. I was asked to film a specific scene too. It was of me turning the water pump handle just before getting passengers into the boat. It needed 2 takes as I was too fast the first time. All in all a good start to the festival for me, I enjoyed meeting and working with new people. I felt quite tired surprisingly early but then it was completely dark with no windows. There were some teething problems which you would expect on the first day. I felt our briefing was rushed and it was taking too long to get people through it. Things did sort themselves out though I believe.   I hope I have enough energy for the rest of the week.

Day 2 Sunday 24th October. This was the only time during the whole festival when I wasn’t there for the whole day. I was sent to the MMU again with 2 lovely young scientists Zena and Jordan whom I worked with quite a bit and we had a lot of fun. I enjoyed it at least. I enjoy busking and soon got into it again. I was disappointed that we wouldn’t be doing the lava lamp demo this year. As a chemist it is my favourite. We still had a blast though. It was rather quiet too so they decided not to do any busking there in the afternoon anyway. We did meet a couple of lovely and very funny men who work at the university. One was a Jamaican ex NASA mathematician and the other guy had done a lot of things including acting. Happy memories. There was a robot dog there too who was very cute as you can see from the photo’s. 


They still don’t know everything about it. Does it know its name? (Oh no I’ve forgotten it. There is something to be said for writing a blog entry as soon as possible! lol) Does it even respond to sound? It had some cute moves though. I went home at lunchtime after another happy day ready for the hectic but fun week ahead. I love science festivals. Back soon with news of day 3 xxx

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