Friday, 27 May 2016

Book Review:Saving Bletchley Park by Dr Sue Black OBE

I read this gem of a book 2 weekends ago but have had precious little time to write about it so now I'm making time. Especially as I recieved the book in January and told Sue Black it would be the first book I read this year LOL. I have kept my promise, it IS the first book I have read this year so far. Its been such a busy year so far though. Here is a picture of me taken 1st January with this marvellous book.

I have been following Dr Sue Black on Twitter for a few years now so I know how much she loves Bletchley Park and all she has done for it. I have even visited the park myself 2 easters in a row 2014 and 2015. So there was no way I wasn't going to buy this book and I have been excited about reading it. So I read it in about 11 hours over the course of 2 days. If I had to describe it in one word I would say it is 'unputdownable' and I really mean that! From Start to finish you are on a journey with Sue, from how she got the ball rolling by emailing as many heads of computing departments as she could think of to learning that Bletchley Park was saved and the focus now being on maintaining it. This is a real demonstration of what passion and determination can achieve. Sue gets you emotionally involved and I found myself rooting for her every step of the way. You can learn alot about BP from just reading this book as well as a little about the key people involved, and if I hadn't already been I'm sure this piece of fine literature would make me want to go. Saving Bletchley Park gives you an insight into how the codebreakers managed to shorten and help win WWII, so the importance of BP really can't be stressed enough!
I know others have said this but it is so true that this is also a prime illustration of how to use Social Media as a force for good.
I am proud to have supported the publication of this book in my own small way and to have my name listed among the Murrays in the back of it :) Thanks Sue.

I can tell you this won't be gathering much dust on my shelf.
So if you only read one book this year, make sure its this one. I look forward to Sue's next book.
Long live Bletchley Park!
Love Sarah xxx

Friday, 20 May 2016

Chernobyl, a commemorative event

Volunteering at last years Manchester Science Festival, the highlight was the Chernobyl installation. I loved it so jumped at the chance to volunteer at this Aprils PI event when I found out what it was! PI (Platform of Investigation) is a once monthly even where scientists/researchers can spend a weekend sharing their work and knowledge with the public at MOSI. On Saturday 23rd April and Sunday 24th April, this was about Chernobyl and coincides to mark the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear facility explosion which is next to the Ukraine town of Pripyat. I know what I was doing on this day as 26th April 1986 also happens to be my aunt and uncle's wedding anniversary! Happy 30th to them! I was excited to volunteer for both days and also enjoyed the company of other volunteers I know and see regularly here.

Here I am modelling what is now the official MOSI volunteer t-shirt.

Like all of the PI events this one also took place on the ground floor of the main building at our MOSI. This is the first PI event I have voluteered at and I hope to do more in the future.

On this table you can see some VR cardboard headsets which we had to show people whilst they waited to use the oculus rift. They use your smartphone and we were more than happy to demo this, folks seemed impressed especially the kids. 

Here is a volunteer looking through oculous rift. I had the chance to have a go myself at the end of the day on Sunday. It really is amazing to see the footage from Chernobyl which the scientists had shot and put together like this. 
Here you can see people queuing up and also listening to the Chernobyl scientist from Salford university, Dr Mike Wood. This event started at 10.30am and Mike had flown straight in from Chernobyl that very morning! He was very chatty and passionate and interesting and carried on talking to people after the event was supposed to have finished at 4pm. The other scientists were his PhD studenst and they had all visited Chernobyl. Later in the day one of them told me that Mike was a machine LOL. I certainly want to maintain my bounce like has :)

These 3 images above show footage from various areas of Chernobyl showing the abandoned areas, plant and wild life whch is present now.  More scientists with headsets ready to show people. The footage used to make the oculus rift VR was shot with a 360 degree camera and there was one here to show people. The aim of this event is to make people aware of how Chernobyl is now and that there are in fact a diverse range of plants and animals living here. The radiation effects would have a greater effect on humans which is why nobody lives here but the population density in this country is so low that there is no necessity for anyone to occupy this area. I also learned that whilst there is DNA damage in those animals living there it is not paased along generations. Due to predation no animal lives long enough to see if they will get sick anyway. Interesting...Thank you Salford for a great weekend event and to the MOSI staff for looking after us so well as usual. Mike is such a nice guy and he sent an email around thanking the volunteers as did Rosie from MOSI. Pleased to have done this, it was a joy and always good to find out from the experts. Till next time xxx

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Wear it! Festival

This mini festival was a weekend of exploring the world of wearable technology and it took place on Saturday12th and Sunday 13th March. I volunteered for both days sporting a plain but bright yellow t-shirt which I got to keep.

This event of course took place in our Museum of Science and Industry on the ground floor of the main building (Great Western Warehouse) from 10am until 4pm. There was plenty to see and do, it was fab. It was so nice to hear all visitors I spoke to say how good it was. A wearable technology festival conjours up images of blood pressure and heart monitors. Smartphone accessories, running monitors such as Fitbit and Garmin. Whilst this is true I was surprised that there was nothing like that here. It didn't even get mentioned. Lets now checkout all the wonderful stuff there was to see!
In the Textiles Gallery, there were a few things going on and I spent alot of time in here with great pleasure. The highlight was a workshop where you can sew an LED into a tote bag with a circuit board design. It was very popular and the seats filled up easily. This didn't stop myself and another volunteer from showing of the totes to visitors hoping to garner further interest. If I remember correctly, we ran out bags in the end anyway!

Also in the textiles gallery you could make a pair of 3D glasses from card and red and blue filters then look at these images.

Also there were some amazing 3D printing pens and I watched people print a selection of nice things. I want one! The are around £100 each.

This photo shows a police vest with the latest Kevlar technology and also here you could try out a virtual reality headset, Oculus Rift and travel around the world. I had a go, it was set to take us to Paris which I have yet to visit in person. It was fantastic and I asked what the app was as all you need for this is your smartphone. The app is Googlecard board and you can buy a cardboard headset from Amazon for £10. I am now the proud owner of a VR headset myself and have enjoyed visiting my favourite places.
Looking outside from this gallery into the main area you can see we had a marquee. There's a team of performers who can do impressive moves with LED laden hoola hoops and visitors could have a go themselves.

                                  In this last picture on the right you can see our Minecraft area. I was unaware as to what this game was never mind its great popularity especially amongst the young ones.

This photo n the left shows the main area where we had a soldering workshop where kids could make their own badge and learn to solder. It proved very popular and I helped to manage the queue. Even though we ran out bulbs everyone was happy! We hope visitors enjoyed this event and went away with a greater awareness of the uses and applications of wearable technology. I am glad I volunteered. Thank you MOSI xxx

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