Edinburgh Science Festival – Hall of Science: A Night of Extreme Demonstrations

Exhilarating, exciting and electrifying.

That’s yesterday’s ‘Hall of Science: A Night of Extreme Demonstrations’ for you.
It was introduced by Richard Wiseman, this year’s Guest Director. He made it clear that he had nothing to do with the experiments themselves, as he’s simply a psychologist. Although he did perform an experiment on the audience by asking them to hold out their arms straight and close their eyes. He joked it was just for personal amusement, but then had everyone imagine a helium balloon attached to one hand and a pile of books in the other. When everyone opened their eyes again, he explained what type of person you are depending on what position your arms were in.
‘Lets get the dangerous experiments started! You’re going to really enjoy it, unless you have a pacemaker, in which case you’ll enjoy it for a very short amount of time.’ As no one collapsed, we can conclude there were no pacemakers in the room!

Freezing a MarshmallowWalking on Glass

Drs Ken Skeldon, Alun Hughes and Andy Schofield began with the history of Victorian style science exhibitions, and iterated that this was only the second time they’d ever done the show.

They talked about John Henry Pepper and his ‘Boys’ Playbook of Science’ (not to be mistaken for the ‘Playboys’ Book of Science’) which is full of after dinner science, and proceeded to demonstrate one of the experiments: Two large glasses of wine on two tables supporting a wooden rod. The aim: to snap the rod with a broom handle and not break the glasses or spill the wine. The volunteer was successful, which was lucky, as the prize was one of the glasses of wine.

Another experiment was to set light to hydrogen in a keg and make the whole run jump. Then they upped that trick and made a Spud Gun with 5 times the power of the other hydrogen keg. But just before they did it they ‘realised’ that the gun proved a danger to themselves and the volunteers. So they handed out goggles and hard hats. Three pairs, leaving the volunteers to fend for themselves. The gun went off, hit the target and destroyed it at the same time.

The Faraday Cage

Next some myth-busting experiments, which rely on the audience not having any specific physics knowledge. Then they opened up a bed of nails and invited a volunteer, ‘demonstrating’ how to get on it. He did so, and was clearly not in any pain. When he got up, one of the scientists lay down, asking the volunteer stand on top of him. As a surprise, the other two scientists decided to break some concrete over his chest. But right at the moment of doing so, one of them realised that they didn’t know if it was reinforced concrete, as the guy in the shop didn’t know!
From then on they did more experiments; everything from walking on glass and a video of the same scientist walking on hot coals to dropping things into liquid nitrogen. Using a Tesla coil with a million volts in it and ‘electrocuting’ a member of the audience within a Faraday cage; and juggling florescent light tubes whilst having electricity running through their body.
Definitely a good show, although I had seen many of the experiments before. Judging by the faces of the audience, it was a smash for them, as were those I hadn’t seen before. Let’s hope they will tour with this show.

Juggling Fluorescent Tubes


Posted on April 19, 2011, in Edinburgh Science Festival, Physics and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. What a relief that Uncle Faraday’s thingie worked! Would have been embarrassing, not to mention sad, if they’d killed off members of the audience in the name of science. Though it sounds as if they did their best.

    • Yes, Uncle Faraday didn’t let the family down. But sadly, they did do their utmost best to kill the volunteers, not to mention themselves! 🙂

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