Sunday, 13 November 2011

Manchester science Festival 2011: day7

So it is the last day already. Of course I enjoyed myself but I felt a little sad. I think we all did. It has certainly passed by very quickly! Again today I did the evening session at MOSI.

It was entitled Dr Sketchy's Sketchorama
and went on until10pm I think. Andy
and I left at 9pm. It was an awesome
and popular event with many participants and was described as a life drawing event with a science twist. Naturally! :)

I really enjoyed it and was responsible for signing people in. Again we had a bar but it wasn't as good as fridays ;). Just usual beer this time. We had some magnificent cupcakes though. Compliments to the baker for those.

First up on stage was a familiar face. One David Price, award winning Science communicator whom I remember being 'Mr Maths' last year. He also used to be the host of Didsbury Science bar. One minute he was dressed in a suit and the next he looked like a sumo wrestler. He was demonstrating an objects centre of mass/gravity. Then the drawing began. a 50 year old body builder posed in many ways and the audience had only one minute to draw each pose. It looked like fun but I hadn't brought any drawing materials with me. However, I did notice the MOSI managers joining in, talented they were too. In fact it looks like this event drew the right crowd, no pun intended! I don't really understand the significance of the skeleton either even if tomorrow night is halloween. The next act was a contortionist from Britain's got talent apparently! It was time to go home though for Andy and me, so all done and dusted for another year. What a way to finish, thanks MOSI! XXX

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Manchester science Festival 2011: day5

Today Friday I did the evening session at MOSI. I have to confess that I didn't feel the best as we went to the Didsbury Beer festival lastnight, for the first time! Feeling sad as this is my penultimate event but everyone entered into the spirit of things and had a fab time. This event was called Spacetacular and that it truly was. I greeted people and encouraged them to visit the bar and dress up. Its great to see people joining in and there was alot of tin foil and glitter involved. There were bottles of festival ale and cocktails but I wasn't up to that. It was £5 a bottle but they all sold out! The first half of the night took place over the road in the power hall. Researchers to mingle with and talk too, a planetarium show and a caravan with a guy talking about Carl Sagan. I would've liked to see that myself but I did see some nice costumes.The second half was going on until 9pm so I didn't see it all. As I was saying goodbye to the lovely young lady on the desk, a familiar face popped up. His name escapes me but I must have met him last year. He was wearing a boiler suit and a black curly wig and had told me earlier that he liked dressing up lol. Anyway we wanted his picture taken with me which I thought was really sweet. We did see a fabulous astrophysics student named Jen Gupta doing a spot of stand up about Star wars. She was dressed as an imperial trooper including mask. I have a friend who would approve of that but to me the ultimate scifi movie is Blade Runner. Then a guy came on talking about his work making satelite parts. A lovely evening. 

Manchester science Festival 2011: day4

I spent the day at the Manchester Museum on Oxford Road working with another lovely volunteer by the name of Amena which she told me is israeli for trustworthy which is nice. The theme there this year is Egyptology. Setting up the crafts aspect this year was certainly quicker than in previous years! The kids were making pyramids. We directed people around the museum and then filled in evaluation forms. The afternoons event was awesome, we helped out in a class after lunch wich involved mummifying oranges. Good messy fun for kids of all ages. Alas we were not allowed to take pictures of that but I look forward to the teacher putting up pictures on her website. Don't worry, no toxic chemicals involved, and so one is allowed to take ones mummies home. I aim to try one myself when I have time.

Manchester Science Festival 2011:Day 3

Wednesday, day3, at least for me, though officially it is day 5. I spent the whole day at University of Bolton. It was such a fun day where we made a periodic table out of rich tea biscuits, icing sugar and sprinkles. I worked with a lovely lady named Beth and it was great to visit this university. I think we all had fun! I took plenty of photo's of this.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Manchester Science Festival 2011:Day 2

Tuesday. Today I did the afternoon and evening sessions. I spent a lovely chemistry filled afternoon in the Power Hall at MOSI. I helped a lovely young scientist by the name of Declan who had come up from the University of Bristol. He had a beautiful molymod with him of crystal violet lactone but more on that later. First of all he was to do a demo outside which illustrates the different properties fuels have and why chemists look at this when making fuels for different applications. As he was setting this up my job was to try and encourage people to come along and to make sure they stood well back. It was easy to entice people, in fact no effort at all. I think the large safety screen might have something to do with it as this clearly indicates the possibility of explosives :) When ready he mixed some sodium carbide with water and lit it. It burned with a yellow flame leaving soot i.e carbon behind. I know this is not a hot flame! Next we have some methanol in a large plastic container which burn't with a blue flame. It was quite difficult to see but it was there. This is a hot flame. There was also a large hot chocolate tin which we watched intently  and shot up in the air with a bang but I can't recall what gas that was. Finally he had 2 small bottles of liquid methane but they failed to ignite after being filled in bristol and travelling to Manchester. The crowd were thrilled, it was awesome. Once indoors, he had 2 amazing desktop demo's to show us. One was a small sealed tube of a supercritical fluid* Sulfur hexafluoride. He heated it in hot water, it vaporised and then condensed back into a liquid. Nothing great about that you maybe thinking but then he produced another sealed tube of the same size which had more of this stuff inside of it. After heating it produced a quite visible mist. He described this as beautiful. Next was my favourite demo, the above mentioned lactone which is a derivative of the indicator crystal violet lactone. He blew purple bubbles with it which wowed the kids, and was very pretty and deliberately got some of it on himself and the table.When asked of course the kids said yes the problem is it stains. Then an amazing thing happened. He rubbed his skin and the table with his index finger and the colour disappeared, not a trace left! He explained that it is of course still there and we must remember this as it is very toxic. He then explained using the molymod that the just one tweek/movement within the structure causes this to happen. He refered to this as the 'mousetrap' in which the lactone part of the molecule readily moves one of the 3 rings out of alignment. The molecule wants this to happen and it does so when friction is applied to the structure. Like rubbing it for instance. It is no longer absorbing visible light but absorbs in the UV region. So we humans can no longer see it. There are as yet no applications for this but Declan said that it may have possible uses in security. For detecting fingerprints on stolen paper money I would guess.  At 3pm the outdoor demo near the train tracks was repeated but alas still no joy with the methane in a bottle. Then the indoor demos were repeated. Thanks for a funtime Declan, I did learn something. Then I had my break. I was very thirsty and hungry at this point. The evening event I was sent to with another volunteer (who was lovely but I can't recall her name :() took place at the Whitworth Art Gallery. I was very happy about this as it is on my way home. We were packed off with a lunch bag and had a fun evening sitting at a desk booking people in. There were 2 speakers though we only stayed for the first one who was a scientist talking about all things biology. I remember her saying that we are all amazing. I like this, we are unique too. She had a gift for us all, a box was passed around for us all to select a colourful butterfly made from acetate. She spoke of and showed us a DNA installation she had installed somewhere. There was a fun installation still open in the gallery, 2 screens made of silk and we could see ourselves on it. Of course we look strange. A most enjoyable day I went home happy.          

Monday, 24 October 2011

DAY 1, Science Festival

Actually, it is day 3 but today was my first day as a STEM Ambassador this year, monday 24.10.11. It was a fun day and I spent all of it on the info desk second floor. There were a couple of chemistry events going on but I never got the opportunity to see them. The theme for us was computing and we had a chance to look around before the doors opened at 10am. The BBC events were fantastic especially being on a tv screen and then covering yourself up with a sheet which makes you appear invisible. It works with green and as our t-shirts are green it worked with them too, great fun! Also possible to conduct a classical orchestra and dance to given steps. Outside of this room, was a robot demo, some outdated pc's being repaired and then sent to schools in Africa which I think is awesome. Also some 3D objects to look at on screen and augmented reality with Marvin the paranoid android sitting on a sofa. Also one room had a programming for beginners sessions going on and there were 2 computer related talks today. Around 1.45pm there was a fire alarm which unfortunately disrupted things abit and we had a fire drill first thing when we arrived. When I say we, I only saw 3 volunteers today including myself :( Just 2 of us there for the whole day but I do sincerely hope that no more drop out and I get to meet new volunteers. It would be nice to see old faces too though I have the memories. I managed to take a few photo's of todays events and I lookforward tomorrow when I am working the afternoon session and then doing my first ever evening one. I'll report on this afterwards xxx

Friday, 21 October 2011

Manchester Science Festival 2011!

Well its that time of year again, and I am excited to resurrect my role as a STEM Ambassador at this years festival. It all begins tomorrow saturday 22nd October for 9 days until 30th October. I am even more excited as 2011 is the International Year of Chemistry so I anticipate that there will be an abundance of chemistry events at this festival :) Looking forward to being involved, seeing the STEM Management team and also working with old faces and new. It will be fab as ever. Here is this years festival programme:

Personally I am involved in this from Monday onwards, but will no doubt visit MOSI over the weekend myself. Anyway, whenever, I hope to see you there. Lets have fun! xxx

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

I wonder what the periodic table looked like in the year that I was born?

Or to put it another way I wonder how many elements have been discovered since I've been around? That is, since 1969. You may remember as, its only 2 years ago that back in 2009, a new element was discovered and named. This was element 112 which after due consideration IUPAC decided to give the name  Copernicium with the symbol Cn. This year 2 new elements 114 and 116 were found to exist. IUPAC say that this is now official and that they are currently trying to name them. Interestingly only the name of dead scientists can be used. Anybody got any ideas who they would like the elements to be named after? ;) This is of course what got me wondering what the periodic table looked like in 1969. After abit of research it seems that element #105 Dubnium was discovered in 1967 in USSR. This is a transition metal whose origin was to be found at the Joint Institute for nuclear research at Dubna. So this is what the Periodic Table looked like in 1969

 As you can see this means that 43 elements have been discovered since then. That averages out at more than one a yr! Care to share what it looked like in the year YOU were born? 

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Vitamin D

Back in February I had my regular blood test as usual. The lovely nurse, whom I usually see, told me that due to low light levels in Manchester, many people here often have vitamin D deficiency. I thought this was an interesting fact and strange I hadn't known about or heard about it before. Then, by sheer coincidence the results of my blood test revealed that I am indeed currently deficient in vitamin D. I thought this was an interesting fact and strange I hadn't known about or heard about it before. (Do I think my nurse is clairevoyant, lol,hell no!). I find this so hard to believe, now in April given the heatwave we are going through and the fact I have been out running in it everyday. I thought it would be nice to research and write a post on this vitamin just touching on its chemistry. I, myself, only knew what most people generally know I think, without looking anything up. That is, it is made in the skin when it is exposed to UV light. Deficiency among other things can produce brittle bones. Not good news for me since I recently ran the Brighton marathon. This is about as much as I knew about it anyway. It is a fat soluble vitamin, and in the skin, 7-dehydrocholesterol, a derivative of cholesterol is photolysed by UV light producing previtamin D3. The biologically active form being known as calcitrol. When synthesised in the kidney's it regulates among other things, the conc of calcium and phosphate in the bloodstream thus promoting the healthy mineralisation, growth and remodelling of bone. There are several types collectively, known as calciferol. I seem to be taking vitamin D3 or cholecalciferol. Chemically, the various forms of vitamin D are secosteroids i.e. steroids in which one of the bonds in the steriod rings is broken.The structural difference between vitamin D2 and vitamin D3 is in their side chains. The side chain of D2 contains a double bond between vitamin D2 and vitamin D3 is in their side. The side chain of D2 contains a double bond between carbons 22 and 23, a methyl group on carbon 24. It is a derivative of ergosterol, a membrane sterol and is produced by some organisms of phytoplankton, invertebrates and fungi in response to uv irradiation, D2 is not produced by land plants or vertebrates.
I found the following history interesting. The photosynthesis , of vitamin D evolved over 750 million years ago and played a critical role in the maintenance of a calcified skeleton in vertebrates as they left their calcium-rich ocean enviroment for land over 350 million years ago.

Vitamin D can only be synthesised via a photochemical process so early vertebrates that ventured onto land either had to go ingest foods that contained vitamin D because melanin in the skin hinders vitamin D synthesis.
One of the most important roles of vitamin D is to maintain skeletal calcium balance by promoting calcium absorption in the intestines, promoting bone resorption by increasing the osteoclast numbers, maintaining calcium and phosphate levels for bone formation, and allowing proper functioning of parathyroid hormone to maintain serum calcium levels. Historically, vitamin D3 was used to treat tb patients but has not been adequately investigated in controlled clinical trials.
Interestingly, vitamin D3 has also shown some anti-hiv -1 effects  in vitro , including the induction of  autophagy. In an epidemiological study of hiv positive women in tanzania, there appeared to be a correlation between reduced levels of vitamin D and speed of hiv disease progression. It is important to note that this still needs confirmation. To get deep into the chemistry, please look at this link

Monday, 25 April 2011

Marathon update

I know that this isn't the right blog for this lol but I feel its worth mentioning since I mentioned it in my previous post ;) 

Back home in Manchester now after my adventure in Brighton,and I did think of it as an adventure. Alot hillier than I expected but so much to do.Brighton Rocks!Gorgeous view of the sea and the pier from our hotel and I got to see a fair bit of the place on my run. Fantastic to meet Joe at last and her lovely other half and sweet daughter. We all spent a wonderful evening together. Thank you very much to Joe and Starfish for the most beautiful t-shirt ever I wore it with pride and it is rather salty now but I shall wash it gently and put it in my treasure trove. Well I did it, I completed a marathon and although it didn't go exactly according to plan I am very happy to have done this. I thoroughly enjoyed the run,the atmos was terrific as it always is at these events I was doing brilliantly, I was running well and was making good time for the first half, 13 miles. Then at mile 15 developed pain in the back of my left leg,this got progressively worse throughout both of my legs with the odd twinge of cramp. I knew what it was straight away, salt depletion and I knew I would be walking most of the rest of the way by mile 21 I couldn't run at all and my fingers had all swollen up so I went to the nearby paramedics who gave me a couple of salty drinks then I was on my way again,keeping my hands in the air as advised. I managed to run the last 50 metres over the finish line to lots of cheers. Got unexpectedly emotional because after all my training, efforts etc I had hoped to do this in 4.5 hours not the full 6.Britain has been in a heatwave this past week and I just cannot run in the sun, just as I struggle to swim in warm water.All has to be cool-ish for me. However I did it and got my medal damn it! There were some poor souls worse off than me. My fingers were normal size again by 8.30 ish after a meal. Thanks to our lovely hotel staff for putting on an early breakfast for us. Thanks to Joe and her family for coming along to meet and support me. I hope your journey home was fine and didn't take too long. Thank you to everyone who has sponsored and supported me, it really does mean alot to me and does make a difference. At mile 16 a lady with a tannoy stopped me and gave a shout out for Starfish So thats phase 1 complete, now for the more important phase 2,collecting  sponsorship. So now I'm at the recovery and rebuilding of the body stage. Lots of rest, fluids and sleep.
        You can  visit our Facebook page:!/pages/Sarah-and-Joes-Brighton-Marathon-April-2011/120777117978635
  To see an example of the      inititaives our fundraising helps, please visit Starfish   here:
  Thank you so much for sponsoring me, I look forward to hearing from you  in the   future. We do make a difference together. To do so please go to the page entitled ‘Sponsoring me’

Thursday, 10 March 2011

One month to go...

This isn't exactly science but its something close to my heart which I am very proud of doing. Today is the 10th March, which means it is exactly 1 month until I run in the Brighton marathon to raise much needed funds for The Rutger Hauer Starfish Association. It is also my birthday 1 month after this event. Please consider giving me an early present by sponsoring me ♥ you can do this safely online by visiting my website.  I certainly do appreciate it and would also love it if you left a comment in my guestbook. Have a fab day and thank you! xxx

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

So you want to be a STEM Ambassador?

I have been a STEM Ambassador since September 2009 and it is a decision I am very pleased to have made. I love it! It is such fun and you get to meet fellow enthusiastic like minded people. I think it is also a great networking tool and a nice way to make new friends. A STEM Ambassador is essentially a science communicator and to find out more about this initiative and to sign up to become an ambassador yourself, please visit their website Do you have what it takes to inspire people about STEM subjects and to dispel myths and stereotypes which people still believe? I became a STEM Ambassador because it sounded fun and exciting which it is. I thought it would present me with opportunities which it has. Let me give you an example. In January 2010 I was interviewed for a  US radio station about the STEM Ambassador program and how it could be implemented across the pond. I have also met and worked with some wonderful people and I hope to work with them again. Another reason was to hone my skills at communicating science  to non-scientists as I feel I need to improve in this area. What a nice way to acquire a new skill. When I first started we were told that there were 11k ambassadors in the UK and that the goal was to have  27k by 2012. The fabulous news I recieved this month is that that goal has now been surpassed already. Of course the more the merrier and this can only enhance the diversity of experience available to faciliate STEM initiatives and inspire future scientists. On a personal note last monday I attended the Didsbury Scibar as I do every month. This time the speaker was from the University of Manchester  Dr Paul Walmsley talking about low temperature physics. In the not too distant future I may well be the chairperson for this event.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

International Year of Chemistry

I can't believe that it is the end of January already. I guess things have kicked off regarding chemistry at some places in the world and it can only continue, and get better! Today marks the opening ceremony for the international year of chemistry, in Paris. Here are some interesting and useful links

Tomorrow, January 27th, the opening ceremony for the International Year of Chemistry will be held in Paris, at the UNESCO HQ

To watch the Program, please click on:

To watch the Launch Ceremony live, please click on one of the following links:

Floor – mms://

English – mms://

French – mms://

and this is just the beginning of a very exciting year !!!

Yesterday saw the opening of a new gallery at MOSI (Museum of science and Industry) and the ribbon was cut by Manchester's very own Prof. Brian Cox. It's a pity that I only got 20 minutes notice about this on my Twitter feed lol otherwise I would've headed over there before work to meet him and ask him to sign my copy of his book. Ah well, such is life, c'est La vie. I hope there will be future chances for this to happen when the Prof is at home long enough ;) Take care all, and enjoy 2011

I am grateful for any feedback and comments. Thanks for reading and don't be a stranger xxx