Rock music, universe, physics, acoustics, string theory, lecture, british science association

Are you ready to ROCK?

Next weekend (4th March) we are holding our annual Prestige Lecture open to the public for free. This year we are welcoming physicist and winner of the first FameLab Dr Mark Lewney a.k.a The Rock Doctor. So in preparation for a show full of ear bending, mind blowing science using guitar music to understand the universe, BSA volunteer Amy caught up with him for a chat.

Amy: Since winning FameLab back in 2005, what have you been up to; how has life changed?

Mark: Since winning FameLab, I have done TV and radio work including a “Three Minute Wonder” for Channel 4 and a live show from Edinburgh Festival with Spinal Tap’s Harry Shearer (I jammed on stage with Ned Flanders). I’ve also toured the world with my rock guitar physics show, including science festivals in Tokyo, Las Vegas and most of Europe.

Amy: What’s your favourite part of your job and why?

Mark: My favourite shows are at schools in the evenings, where students, parents and indeed anyone at all turn up. Their questions are always surprising and often really astute.

Amy: What can people expect from the lecture in Birmingham later this month?

Mark: I explain the physics of guitars and use this as a crowbar to explore String Theory and quantum mechanics, culminating in a musical finale. Requests welcome in the warm up!

Amy: What’s your favourite scientific theory/hypothesis and why?

Mark: Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle is mind blowing. Together with the hypothesis that a Higgs Field can make gravity repulsive, it could even explain how you get an entire universe from a tiny quantum fluctuation: Basically, it says that there’s no such thing as true nothingness – you’re not allowed to have precisely zero forever.

Amy: What are you getting involved in next?

Mark: I’m trying my hand at historical fiction, and I’m appearing at Cheltenham Science Festival debating philosopher Ray Tallis on the topic “Can Science Explain Music?” I say yes.

A fascinating talk is guaranteed at the lecture with heaps of fun (and good music) thrown in. This free event on 4th March is open to all and is located at the ThinkTank Science Museum, Birmingham from 6-7pm.

If you fancy rocking your socks off please pop over to our Facebook page for more details:

SciScreening Jurassic Park

Come and join us at our SciScreening of Jurassic Park Taking place at The Mockingbird Theatre based at the Custard Factory on Saturday 12th March 12-5 pm.

We have some hands on activities starting 12 pm. These include making your own dinosaur trackway, draw you own dinosaur, when dinosaurs walked the earth and Jurassic Genetics: How did they do it?. These are followed by a talk from Dr David Button and a screening of the classic film Jurassic Park. We also have snacks available, including popcorn which no film would be complete without but feel free to bring a picnic if you like.

Admission is FREE and tickets are available at Eventbrite.


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Annual Prestige Lecture 2015

Come and join us for our Annual Prestige Lecture taking place at the Birmingham Thinktank Science Museum on the 5th December 3:30 – 4:30pm.

This years talk is titled ‘Formula One Racing to World Economic Crash – Mathematical Modelling in Today’s Society: A personal perspective’.

We are delighted to have mathmetician Dr Nira Chamberlain deliver this years lecture. Named by the Science Council as one of the UK’s top 100 Scientists, Dr Nira Chamberlain has also been described by Loughborough University as “one of its great scientific minds”.

Admission to this event is FREE and open to all! You can register at Eventbrite.

Contact us through twitter, facebook or leave a reply here if you have any questions. Alternatively contact Anita Shervington at or 07900986663.

Prestige Lecture 2015

2013 Prestige Lecture

Monday 21st October

Prof Iain Stewart

50 shades of grey

Geologists are increasingly being encouraged to present their work to the wider public, and even to advocate more directly its policy dimensions. Yet how can we do that when, for most people, geology is about ‘stones’ and stones are ‘boring’?

This talk will explore how geoscientists can access the public and policy-makers in a myriad of ways, ditching ‘geo-facts’ for ‘geo-culture’ and switching from traditional communication methods to new alternative media.

6.30pm for 7.00pm start

Thinktank Theatre, Level 2

Millennium Point, Curzon St


Iain is Professor of Geosciences Communication at the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences (Faculty of Science & Environment), Plymouth University.In addition to his academic publications, Iain has also regularly appeared on national television and radio, e.g. Volcano Live, BBC2, July 2012. You can read more about Iain on Plymouth University website or on Wikipedia. Keep up to date with Iain via his personal blog or follow him on his twitter account @Profiainstewart.

Prestige 2013

Second Volunteering Evening – Monday 3rd June 2013

To be held at Thinktank, Birmingham 17.30-19.00

(meet at the Giant Screen Cinema entrance/cafeteria)

A warm invitation to join the meeting is extended to:

  • All who attended the first volunteering evening at Gosta Green on 25th April
  • All who earlier expressed an interest in supporting the work of the Branch but who could not make the first meeting
  • The Branch Chairman, Secretary, and other Branch Committee Members
  • Anyone else who would like to contribute to the work of the Association.

The purpose of the meeting

The Branch Committee welcomed the contributions from the first meeting and would now like the volunteers to help develop a plan for two public events for the 2013-14 Branch programme. The essence of the meeting and the subsequent events are to help promote science, in the broadest sense, to the “community” at large. When finished the expectation is for the volunteers to present their plans to the Committee for inclusion in the overall Branch programme. The Branch Chairman, Secretary and other Committee members will be available for consultation through the planning stage.

At this stage each plan should be carefully thought through but with a concise summary. Each should address the following issues:

  • Nature and content of the event (including who will lead it). Why is this science important for the general public?
  • Target audience
  • How would you propose to promote the event?
  • Resources: finance, manpower, venue, equipment etc.
  • Risk assessment: what are the risks and how would you mitigate them?

Please come and join us on the 3rd June; further information can be obtained from the Branch Secretary, Anita Shervington at or from the Branch’s Facebook and Twitter pages.

The fact of the matter

26th March – An historic day for the physics of matter…

Today marks the anniversary of the birth of American physicist Carl Wieman. Wieman, along with fellow American physicist Eric Cornell, were the first to produce a true Bose-Einstein condensate, for which they won the 2001 Nobel Prize in Physics.

At the time, a Bose-Einsten condensate had never been produced, but the ability of this new state of matter to form had been predicted by Einstein way back in 1924. Einstein based this prediction on the calculations of Indian physicist Satyendra Nath Bose; Bose is also the namesake of the increasingly-popular class of particles, the bosons: particles which obey Bose-Einstein statistics.

Bose-Eisntein condensate is formed when separate atoms — Wieman and Cornell used rubidium atoms — are cooled to near absolute zero, causing the atoms to coalesce into a single quantum mechanical entity. Exciting stuff!


This image shows the velocity-distribution data for the gas of rubidium atoms, which confirmed the discovery of the new phase of matter.

For a simple and easy to follow explanation of Bose-Einstein condensate follow this link.

For a more in-depth look at this matter (ahem), use this one.

This post was written by David Chapman, a committee member of the West Midlands Branch of the British Science Association. For more information on the Brach, find us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.