Edinburgh Science Festival – Universe Challenge

Once we had ‘crawled’ up the horrendous hill to get to Edinburgh’s Royal Observatory and the Institute of Astronomy, I was greeted by Tania Johnstone as ‘the blogger person’, in the nicest possible way, as she had forgotten my name for a split second. She agreed about the hill, but remarked I should be happy I don’t have to climb it every day.

I’d brought my brother, who’s a cheap companion, seeing as he got in on a student ticket. We were handed clickers and directed to the Universe Challenge. The room filled up with ‘boys’ of all ages, and also some girls. Dr John Davies, as chair, jokily said that if we got a question wrong, the little clicker would give us an electric shock. Dr Davies wore a rather wonderful waistcoat, which would really stand out in a crowd, and he carried a UK Space Agency bag, which I really really want.

Once the games began, on one side we had three members of the Astronomy Society in Edinburgh; Dr Dave Gavine, Ken Thomas and Carol Gentle.

On the other team, the professionals, were staff from the Royal Observatory; Drs Duncan Forgan, Fergus Simpson and Ken Rice. After a couple of test runs for the audience to understand how the clickers worked, we had go for lift-off!

The questions ranged from the very simple like ‘Name the four Galilean moons’ and ‘Who directed the Star Wars movies?’, to some quite complicated ones like ‘If you take the Ring Nebula and take away the Andromeda Galaxy and the Crab Nebula, which city are you travelling around?’ Once you know the answer, you can understand the question. [As a little test, let’s see who can answer the question. If you think you know, send the answer to ‘Contact’.]

We all knew who would win, seeing as the teams never really were neck-and-neck, and the astronomers from the society won 73 points to 52! Which just proves that having three doctors on a team doesn’t guarantee victory. Sorry, Royal Observatory.

They also had a little competition for the audience, and the adult with the most right answers got 79%, and the best child 58%, which is extremely good. Personally, I didn’t do too well. The main questions would have been easier, but the questions for the audience… Oh well, there’s always next year. I hope this event will be repeated, as it was brilliant. It was a lot of fun and entertainment and if the professionals would just revise a little more, they might do fine!

So, overall that’s 5 out of 5. Great night. Apart from maybe the hill… which was great in its own way.


Posted on April 22, 2011, in Astronomy, Edinburgh Science Festival, Physics and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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