Author Archives: westmidlandsscienceblog

Stephen Hawking, space, earth, colonise, mars

Stephen Hawking warns we need to move planets!

Forget moving home, Stephen Hawking warns us we need to move planets in the next 100 years, unless we want to go extinct!

In a new documentary Expedition New Earth, the renowned physicist stated that humans need to become a multi-planetary species if we are to survive. The program focuses on how humans could actually move to a different planet, after Hawking’s predictions of a catastrophic event which would end human life on earth. To avoid this disaster, moving to the stars is the way forward, Hawking believes.

Stephen Hawking, earth,

Could we be saying goodbye to our earth sooner rather than later?

Talks of colonising Mars are already underway.

Billionaire and technology extraordinaire Elon Musk, is aiming to form a settlement there in the next few decades, through his company SpaceX. Even though Musk claims he doesn’t have a “doomsday prophecy”, he remarks on historic events which suggest to him that a doomsday event will occur in the future.

Let’s face it, with a booming human population and the impacts of climate change becoming more widespread…is this really such a fantastical vision? Could we be seeing a new colonization event, within our lifetime? Only time will tell.

Expedition New Earth is part of the BBC’s Tomorrow’s World season, which is set to be released this summer.

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Asteroid

Look up to the Sky: Asteroid Set to Fly by on 19th April

A large asteroid discovered three years ago is set to whizz past the earth on the 19th April at a distance of about 1.1 million miles. This is about four and a half times the distance of the moon from the earth. This seems like a long distance but this is a very close approach for an asteroid of this size.

Asteroid 2014 JO25 was discovered back in 2014 by astronomers who estimate it to be approximately 650 meters in size (just over 7 football pitches). It is set to approach from the direction of the sun and will be visible after the 19th April. Due to its high reflective properties – it is twice as reflective as the moon – it will be visible even on small optical telescopes for up to two nights afterwards.

Smaller asteroids pass the earth at this distance all the time, but this will be the first time an asteroid of this size has passed this close, since 2004. The next known asteroid of a similar size has already been discovered and is set to pass earth by in 2027 – so another ten years away!

The approach on 19th April will be a good opportunity for researchers to study the asteroid and its properties as very little is known about it, bar its trajectory. Radar observations are being set up in several locations including the US and Puerto Rico. These could give details about the asteroid’s surface as small as a few meters! Very precise!

So remember to look up to the sky on 19th April and beyond with several comets set to pass us by in the days following too!

For more information you can visit the NASA website here.

For up to date information on asteroids, check out Asteroid Watch on Twitter!

Remember to like the British Science Association Facebook page and follow us on Twitter!

Warwick Group’s World TB Day Event

17579967_10212553594214018_2048332116_nLast Friday, for World TB Day, Warwick’s Fullam research group raised awareness of tuberculosis at Cannon Park Shopping Centre. The group had collaborated with local groups, St Peter’s Community Centre and Foleshill Women’s Centre, to produce their interactive stall with the message that this airborne disease is still a killer.

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Alongside information leaflets and ‘history of TB’ posters, their stall featured balloons, stickers, cuddly microbes, and fluorescence microscopy pictures. One activity involved breathing into the ‘Big Mouth’ using a straw or face mask, which represented how effective face masks are at stopping the spread of TB. Leaflets gave key facts about TB locally (93 new TB cases in Coventry annually!) and globally while word search, colouring, and Twitter competitions amused many.

When prompted with questions, group members were very enthusiastic to discuss their laboratory projects. Postdoctoral researcher, Mohd. Syed aims “to determine the structure of a Mycobacterium tuberculosis protein, which would help us design more specific drugs against TB.” Meanwhile, PhD student, Magdalena Karlikowska is “interested in how M. tuberculosis utilises and metabolises different sugars to survive within a human host with the aim of discovering new drug targets.”

While we all enjoyed dressing up for the Twitter competition and musing over posters and leaflets, the group also learned more about how TB affects people in Coventry. Magdalena reflected that “it was particularly interesting when an elderly man came up to our stand and shared his experience of nursing TB patients 50 years ago.” Mohd. noted that “many of the elderly who came up to me knew someone who had died from TB, and were therefore interested in what we are doing here. Some even looked for a donation box but we were just raising awareness.”

The event raised awareness of the global and local effects of TB to over 300 people while demonstrating, through stories shared, the need for TB related research.

Science Day. Community, Birmingham, British Science Association

Science Day goes with a Whizz Pop Bang!

For British Science Week we held a Community Science Day at the POD in Birmingham and boy did it go with a Whizz Pop Bang!

We walked like Dinosaurs and heard plenty of fizzing in our Fizz Pop workshop! A range of “pick and mix” activities were also on offer for those who just wanted to dip their toes in the science world. Testing our reaction times, our maths skills and star spotting online were all great fun.

 

Our co-chair Lucy said of the event, “The Community Science Day was good hands-on fun. I enjoyed sharing some of the excitement that I find in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) with the attendees.” Although as always, science doesn’t always go to plan, she admits, “Some of the experiments could have been more impressive but science does not always go how you expect.”

Science Day, Community, Birmingham, British Science Association

Walking like a dinosaur!

Our free event went down a treat with plenty of fun for both kids and the adults! Surrounded by happy smiles, our BSA volunteers had a blast sharing exciting and interesting science with members of the local community.

To keep up to date with our events make sure to like our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter!

We look forward to seeing you soon!

Photos courtesy of the POD.

Planet, NASA, Discovery,

The Final Frontier: Planet Discovery a New NASA Record

NASA has set a new record with the discovery of not one but seven earth-size planets around a single star. The discovery was made by the Spitzer Space Telescope which located the planets 40 light years (235 trillion miles) from Earth. Although this is a massive distance, in space terms it is relatively close in the constellation Aquarius.

This planetary system has been named TRAPPIST-1 after the very first smaller telescope to discover the system. The star around which the seven planets orbit is an ultra cool dwarf, 12 times smaller than our sun, making it approximately the size of Jupiter. All seven of the planets could have liquid water, with three out of the seven being found in what is termed the “habitable zone”. This is the area around a star which is most likely to have liquid water.

Data from the Spitzer telescope has allowed scientists to accurately measure the sizes of the planets and gives a good idea of the masses of six of them. Based on the data collected and analysed so far, it is likely that the planets are all rocky in nature. The furthest planet is yet to be analysed but it is thought it could very well be an icy snowball!

Since the discovery, other telescopes have got in on the act to try and collect as much data as possible. The Hubble telescope has begun screening four of the planets including the three within the habitable zone for more data on their characteristics. Whilst the Keplar telescope is studying the rest of the TRAPPIST-1 system to try and search for other nearby planets. The use of the three telescopes together is helping to prepare for further studies which will be launched in 2018 with the James Webb Space telescope. This piece of kit has greater sensitivity and can give more detailed data on the planets’ atmospheres and chemical make-up.

This is the first opportunity to begin the discovery of biology beyond our solar system, helping us to answer the age old question – are we alone?

To find out more information visit: www.trappist.one

Don’t forget to come along to our Community Science Day being held at the POD in Birmingham on 18th March 2017 from 10 am til 1 pm. Tickets are free and available from Eventbrite.

To find out more information and to register visit:  https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/nechells-community-science-day-tickets-32601660444?aff=eac2

Guitar, Lecture, Physics, String Theory, Rock Doctor, Music, Acoustics

The Doc Rocked!

Our Annual Prestige Lecture this year went down a storm – with Rock Doctor Mark Lewney well and truly blowing our minds and ears! Full of showmanship and humour, Dr. Lewney wowed his audience, rocking us with his electric guitar through 11 dimensions!

He began with showing off his amazing talent with some requests from the audience, ranging from Metallica to Guns and Roses and even Uptown Funk by Bruno Mars. Once all had settled in to the patter of his humour and awesome playing, he began by explaining sound and how it links to our voice box. Sound is simply vibrations and he explained that they form patterns called sine waves.

For an example, he selected our wonderful BSA President Lucy, from the audience to demonstrate the patterns of vibrations called harmonics. For this he used a childhood favourite – a slinky. Wriggling the slinky at different rates (with Lucy holding the other end) it was clear to see the different patterns taking shape.

Then it was time for us to learn about the vibrations of a string (this is where the guitar comes in) and what impacts its sound – tension, length and thickness. Once we knew that the longer the string the lower the sound and other similar properties, it was time to take our basic physics knowledge and apply it to string theory.

The idea behind string theory is that all the particles in the universe are the vibrations of the same tiny strings (smaller than an atom kind of tiny).  Even that it is possible those strings can vibrate in lots of different dimensions. This of course boggles the mind to think about more than 3 dimensions. But some scientists think it could be that there are many tiny dimensions within our three, perhaps a hidden extra 6 or 7 within these tiny strings. Obviously, we don’t yet have the technology to test string theory and so for many it remains a mysterious and intriguing idea. Very few people fully understand string theory – even Mark held his hands up and said he wasn’t one of those people!

But is it possible that the universe could actually be made of music?

Well after the Rock Doctor had finished his rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody for his finale, I was left feeling anything was possible – and that’s the “kind of magic” I like!

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:

https://www.facebook.com/events/1580240448657642/