Blog posts

Record Breakers!

Blogging science to life

Thu 31 July 2014, Jen

It’s official (well, almost): At-Bristol now holds the record for the world’s longest-ever popcorn string! As we sit back and reflect on exactly what happened (and why on earth we thought it was a good idea) last week, here’s how we did it:

Image credit: Lee Pullen Photography

Why did we do it?

All those months back when we began work on our fantastic new Food! exhibition, we thought that it would be brilliant to have a really big celebratory event on the opening weekend, and something that everyone could come and take part in and enjoy – hence, a food-related world record attempt!  

So, once we’d settled on a popcorn-related world record to tie in with our LED popcorn laser exhibit, the planning began: we sent a detailed application to Guinness World Records, after which we received the specifications for completing the record attempt and breaking the previous record of 277m. 

After some rudimentary maths we worked out that we’d need approximately 30,000 pieces of popcorn to reach our target of 300m – with an amount of that size, we knew that we needed some professional popcorn help!  Luckily, Showcase Cinema De Lux Bristol came to the rescue and donated all 10kg of the popcorn to us!

Image credit: Lee Pullen Photography

The big event

The record attempt itself had to take place over a 24 hour period, so we started at 2pm on Friday 25 July, and finished at 2pm the following day. Overall we threaded popcorn for a total of 14 hours (stopping for an overnight breather), hugely aided by the great British public and At-Bristol visitors, staff and volunteers. We provided 1m lengths of super-strength polyester thread, which people then threaded popcorn on to with a needle and thimble, taking around 10 minutes for a metre.

We then tied all the separate lengths together and laid them down on the ground against a 5m marker, tying on tags at intervals so we could keep track of how far we’d got.  Special commendations go to Jemima Carder, who threaded a whopping 22m of popcorn, and 12-year old Nick, who created the longest single chain, measuring 3m!

Image credit: Lee Pullen Photography

Two independent witnesses were on hand at all times to oversee the entire event, ensuring that we kept to the rules (all popcorn had to be touching, and there could be no gaps in the threads) and that all was above board. The world record attempt culminated in a big celebration event for Food! on Millennium Square: Almondsbury Garden Centre and Incredible Edible Bristol planted our next edible planter, BEATS supplied lots of delicious street food, and Bristol Samba got us all dancing!

Image credit: Lee Pullen Photography

We beat the previous record of 277m with an hour to go, and finished at 320m – a new world record! The independent witnesses verified the final length (containing 32,000 pieces), so now all of the required evidence will be sent off to Guinness World Records, and we’ll await their official verdict in a few weeks’ time.

The popcorn string is currently on display in the foyer of At-Bristol, so anyone who was involved in the attempt (or who just wants to come and see something pretty amazing!) can come down and see it.

A special thanks goes to the following people:

  • Sophie at Showcase Cinema De Lux Bristol – for donating 10kg of popcorn
  • Our independent witnesses – Hannah, James, Sophie & Ellie from Research Media, Ed from Lloyds Bank, Paul Carder from UWE, Julia from Friends Life, Rebekah from DTZ, and Mary and Katie from Bristol Crown Court 
  • All At-Bristol staff and volunteers

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How to measure the speed of light - with CHOCOLATE!

Blogging science to life

Fri 25 July 2014,

Have a go at some kitchen quantum mechanics as Ross and Nerys show you how to measure the speed of light using a bar of chocolate and your microwave!  Who knew physics could be so tasty?!

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Why do bees dance?

Blogging science to life

Mon 21 July 2014, Nicole

Could you tell your friends where to find food just by dancing? Join Ross Exton of the Live Science Team as he takes a look inside a hive to discover the mysterious behaviour of honey bees.

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Tales from the Workshop…

Blogging science to life

Fri 18 July 2014, Zoe

Tales from the Workshop…

For the next instalment from our series ‘Tales from the Workshop’, and as we rapidly head towards the opening of our new Food! exhibition next week, we’re going to be taking a look at our Robot Chef - a trainee Robotic Chef who is trying to complete her studies  on what food humans like to eat, and she’s chosen At-Bristol to do it.

Currently called ‘RoboChef 3000’ (we’re asking the public for a new name at the moment, you can enter our competition here), she needs help from the At-Bristol visitors to finish her studies by getting people to try her recipes. And in a very clever, robotic way, can give a human a menu which might be their favourite dish, or perhaps something new, by using emotions – whether the person (or with this being such a highly intelligent robot, even a group people) are laughing or frowning.

After asking a series of questions and getting feedback through smiles or frowns, RoboChef 3000 will then print a shopping list and by scanning the barcode on the At-Bristol entry ticket wristband for our Explore More technology, a full recipe will be sent to the user for them to then cook up a storm at home. As RoboChef 3000 then says: “I will need photos of your cooked creation to pass my robot chef exam so please send them in. Enjoy the rest of your day!”

RoboChef 3000

"Honestly, I’m armless!” (arms to go on before launch...) 

The technology was originally designed for space, with the ability to recognise facial emotions of the crew on space missions, to help alleviate the potential fallouts or even depression, being confined in a small space for months at a time. The robot’s programmed software can learn to read the crew’s emotions and talk to them at regular intervals – genius!

Our RoboChef 3000 doesn’t use quite the same level as that for space missions, but visitors will still have a conversation with a robot, the outcome of which will result in a chosen recipe and hopefully a whole plethora of yummy meals  being made up and down the country.

RoboChef 3000

Robot’s eye view (Anchor Road and Bristol Cathedral)

The main inspiration for the look of our RoboChef 3000 comes from the small robot sat on her head in the pictures above, and was designed by our Design Engineer, Andy, and brought to robotic life by our Maintenance Engineer, Ben. Although in the pictures above, RoboChef 3000 doesn’t have any arms, she will by next week so she can move in all her lovely robotic glory!

Donations for recipes so far come from Casamia, Children’s Food Trust and Daylesford Cookery School so thank you to them for their delicious input!

Food! opens on Wednesday 23 July so come and test our RoboChef3000 for yourself then – to find out more visit www.at-bristol.org.uk/food, and keep your eyes peeled for the next instalment of Tales from the Workshop.

 

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Mud, Slugs and Scarecrows: a storytelling adventure!

Blogging science to life

Thu 17 July 2014, John

Mud, Slugs and Scarecrows: a storytelling adventure!

Ever wondered about the programming you enjoy when you’re here in At-Bristol, or questioned where the ideas or stories come from? We caught up with Informal Learning Officer and ‘Keeper of Ursa and Leo’, John Polatch, to get the lowdown on a brand new story for under eights that we’re unveiling next week.


If you’ve been to any of At-Bristol’s storytelling sessions or Little Stars Planetarium shows, you’ll have met Ursa and Leo, our very own tiny explorers and all-time pals of the under eights.

In preparation for our new food-themed Toddler Takeover on 26 September, I sat down with Kerina and Heather from the Live Science Team to write a new story all about food.  Looking at the learning little ones are working towards at Early Years Foundation Stage, and later at Key Stage 1, we decided to plump for planting and growing seeds as a theme – which sits perfectly alongside activities in our brand new greenhouse.

Greenhouse being built!

The stories will be told from a specially created story-telling chair next to the greenhouse, and to really get into the gardening vibe, the area has fake grass underfoot, as well as wheelbarrows, scarecrows and plant pots around!

Story telling chair!

When creating our stories, we look for them to be based around the same active engagement as the rest of the At-Bristol experience. Our stories are about joining in with actions and noises, as well as the scientific behaviours of observation and exploration. Stories are designed to model activities that little ones can do themselves when they get home – so in ‘The Strange Bathtub’, we explored floating and sinking, testing real objects in water during the story to support the narrative. In ‘Mud, Slugs and Scarecrows’, children will get to plant their own seeds!

Kerina, Heather,  the rest of the Live Science Team and I will be bringing you ‘Mud, Slugs and Scarecrows’ every day from 23 July until 10 August, and then again for the ‘Fantastic Feast’ Toddler Takeover itself, when we’ll also have exciting activities in our play café and supermarket. Tasty!

 

 

 

 

 

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Do try this at home: How to make a 3D gif

Blogging science to life

Sat 12 April 2014,

Is seeing really believing? Optical illusions can play tricks with your mind, but here's Ross from the Live Science Team to show you how to use science to fool your eyes and your brain into turning two 2D images into a single 3-dimensional, stereoscopic gif!

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Can music change how you taste? | Interactive Science Experiment | Do Try This At Home!

Blogging science to life

Fri 4 July 2014,

Can music change how you taste? | Interactive Science Experiment | Do Try This At Home!

Can sounds change the flavour of food? Nerys & Sarah of the Live Science Team invite you to take part in an interactive science experiment at home: grab some headphones and tuck in to some science!

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Preparing for a taste sensation: getting our Live Science Team ready for Flavour Lab!

Blogging science to life

Thu 3 July 2014, Alice

Live Lab is about to get all tasty: as part of our ever-changing programming, Flavour Lab is due to launch on Tuesday 8 July, and this activity allows visitors to get hands-on and mouths-on! We go behind the scenes with Live Lab Officer Alice Barber to take a look at the recipe for success...


Whenever we have a change to Live Lab there’s always a lot of work behind the scenes in At-Bristol to get everything ready to go. We've just spent a fortnight training our team of 14 science communicators on the new Flavour Lab activities so that we are all ready to inspire our visitors! Everyone in the Live Science Team has one hour in the classroom to have a go at the experiments just like a visitor would; we run through Flavour Lab in small groups to make sure we can feel really confident about how the activities will work.

Flavour Lab

Robbie, Will and Rich get to grips with some complex flavours!

We also held an early morning training sessions before At-Bristol opens on the science of flavour, so that the Live Science Team are familiar with the science covered in Flavour Lab. This was just one in our series of ten morning training sessions in the run-up to the launch of our newe exhibition, Food!, on 23 July, so that our team in red shirts can have plenty of conversations with visitors about wheat, bees, or growing your own. So even when the At-Bristol doors are closed, we might still be inside talking about science!

Finally there’s one more hour of training for everyone on our ‘Lab Bench’ activities which are more in-depth experiments designed for visitors aged seven and over. We all get a turn with the electric whisk!

Flavour Lab

Kerina whips up some treats!

Do say hello when you are next in At-Bristol - our Live Science Team love chatting with our visitors! Or if you’re not coming to see us soon, you can keep in touch with the team on twitter @AtBristol_LST.


Thanks to Alice for writing this blog!  Flavour Lab launches in Live Lab on Tuesday 8 July, and will be running until 29 September.

 

Flavour Lab

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Should we drink milk?

Blogging science to life

Fri 27 June 2014,

Lactose intolerance can make milk toxic to humans. Is it weird for wanting to drink the milk of other animals? Ross Exton of the Live Science Team visits University of Bristol's Wyndhurst Farm to explore how cows have changed the course of human evolution.

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National Women in Engineering Day!

Blogging science to life

Mon 23 June 2014, Leire Eguiluz, Rolls-Royce

National Women in Engineering Day!

In celebration of National Women in Engineering Day, we catch up with Leire Eguiluz, an Engineering Graduate Trainee with Rolls-Royce, to get the low down on how she got into engineering.

She recently took part in Ships Ahoy!, a joint project between At-Bristol and Rolls-Royce encouraging families to take part in some boat building challenges.

Ships Ahoy!  

(Image credit: Lee Pullen)

How did you get in to engineering? / What first attracted you to it?

Since I was very young I have been particularly interested in subjects like science and maths because I have always liked to know the reasons for everything around me. When I moved to the High School we had for the first time a subject called “Technology”, it was science applied for practical purposes and I found it really interesting.

When I finished my A Levels I was hesitating between Physics and Mechanical Engineering for my university studies, but finally I decided to choose the second one because I thought that it was the clear example of the application of science into the everyday life. Moreover I knew that the potential career options of this degree were very varied and extensive, so it was as well a good way to assure a good future professional career. Additionally after finishing my Mechanical Engineering degree in Spain I came to Cranfield University in UK to study an Msc in Thermal Power (Aerospace Propulsion speciality) with a double degree programme because I wanted to specialise in gas turbines and at the same time have an international experience.

What do you do in your current job?

This is my first job (I started on January 2014). I am an Engineering Gradate Trainee with Rolls-Royce. I am in my second placement in Service Engineering (Defence Aerospace) and my first one was in Design (Marine), both in Bristol. I am planning to do my third one in Norway (manufacturing in marine as well) and the last one will be “Design and Make”.

Ships Ahoy!

(Image credit: Lee Pullen)

Describe an average working day?

I do most of my work in the office, but sometimes I do some visits to the shop floor, which I find very interesting because it gives me the opportunity to see the practical application of what is defined and discussed in the office. This helps me also to understand better the different parts of the engine, how do these interact and the reasons why these sometimes fail. In my company it is also very important to continuously talk to other people  to ask for information, for help or to agree common purposes because communication is one of the main keys in industry as well. The working atmosphere is nice and the company is quite flexible with the arrangement of the working hours as long as we meet our objectives, so usually I can organise my work in the way that is more efficient and convenient for me.

You recently took part in our Ships Ahoy project – tell us a little bit about it

I joined the project quite at the end, so I was impressed by all the ideas that my colleagues had for it. One of the reasons why I liked it is because it was a very good way to introduce children and their parents into what we do in the marine business. Usually all these kind of events are focused on the aerospace sector (explanation of the principle of thrust or lift…), so this project gave us also the opportunity to show them that we also have a marine business with lots of interesting opportunities. It was great to notice the high interest and enthusiasm of children and their parents to learn more about boats, why do these float, when they are stable and what the best design to increase their speed is.

Ships Ahoy!

(Image credit: Lee Pullen)

Do you have any advice for anyone looking at a career in engineering?

Something I would say to anybody looking at a career in engineering is that they have lots of career opportunities in many areas. Furthermore engineering does not only give you the opportunity to understand scientific principles and find solutions for emerging problems, but also gives you the opportunity to explore the world, travel and know new people of different places. Therefore I think that all the effort of studying an engineering degree is absolutely worth due to the future professional career that this guarantees and also all the personal experiences that this offers.

 

Many thanks to Leire for answering our questions!

 

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